Bernard Ingham: Former PMs are lost in a fantasy of blocking Brexit

Sir Bernard Ingham says both Sir John Major and Tony Blair are performing a disservice over Brexit.Sir Bernard Ingham says both Sir John Major and Tony Blair are performing a disservice over Brexit.
Sir Bernard Ingham says both Sir John Major and Tony Blair are performing a disservice over Brexit.
THERE is always a first time. Never before have I asked not one but two ex-Prime Ministers if they know what they are doing.

Tony Blair accurately sees himself as an “insurgent” in seeking to overturn the Brexit vote to leave the European Union. Sir John Major is reported to think Theresa May is wrong to rule out a second referendum.

I have not the slightest doubt that the Liberal Democrats’ leader Tim Farron, and two ex-Deputy Prime Ministers, to wit Lord Heseltine and Nick Clegg, would also wish to see the whole idea of Brexit dropped from a great height.

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You might reasonably ask what gets into folk when they reach the higher levels of the political stratosphere. The answer is that they tend to be ever more carried away by grand concepts and, in the process, become ever more remote from plebs like me who have to live with the consequences of their often daft ideas.

Worse still, they believe passionately in their waywardness. I have not the slightest doubt that each of the above thinks they are advocating the best for Britain.

They reckon we would be much better off safe and snug inside the EU.

It is very disconcerting when the so-called great and the good can so easily overlook the potentially disastrous political consequences of the EU’s 
single currency and the levels of unemployment it has generated in southern Europe.

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It is even more worrying when, seasoned Parliamentarians that they are, they are prepared to ignore the extent to which unelected officials in Brussels usurp the authority of the Westminster Parliament.

This is not to mention the manifest partiality of the European courts for the great European project – a federal nation called the United States of Europe, Grande Europa or perhaps just Europa.

I become positively alarmed when such Europhiles as Kenneth Clarke claim that the idea of a federal Europe is dead and buried.

I don’t think the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her threatened rival, Martin Schulz MEP, President Francois Hollande or Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission president, believe that at all.

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For them the great European project is intact and the Brits ought to have their bottoms smacked – hard – for casting doubt on it.

Now, let me be clear: unlike totalitarians in my native Hebden Bridge, I am not one who wants to shut up those with whom I disagree. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion – and to voice it – provided it is within the law.

But I think I would be remiss if I did not point out the enormity of what these blessed Europhiles are doing.

They are not just advocating that we should be part of the EU for our economic good. They are not just saying that we should stay with the great European effort to put the bloody past behind us and unite to keep the peace. Indeed, they are advocating our returning to an institution that is, now that we are leaving, ever more intent on forming 
a European army to the detriment of 
Nato which has kept the peace for 70 years.

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They are ever more committed to this while Vladimir Putin tries to de-stabilise the West through the EU’s Baltic states and Poland.

The Euro-fanatics will, of course, retort that it is the Brexiteers who are destabilising the EU vis-à-vis an expansionist Russia, even though Britain intends to remain a leading member – and a leading paying member – of Nato.

So to return to the vital question for all Britons who are seeking to overturn the EU referendum: do you realise what you are doing?

Put bluntly, in other times you would be accused of treason for trying to end Hugh Gaitskell’s “1,000 years of history”.

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This is because you are backing a threat to our nationhood. The EU is seeking to replace a nationalism that is paraded, for example, at every international sporting event for a Europeanism that does not exist in any of the EU’s 27 self-governing nations.

It is anti-British just as it is ultimately anti-Swedish, anti-Danish, anti-Polish and anti-Lithuanian.

Is this how those who have climbed to the top of the greasy pole wish to brand themselves?

If not, they had better modify their enthusiasm for the EU with at least a recognition of its serious and dangerous faults. Otherwise, they will, deserve everything that, like mud, will surely attach to their names.

I earnestly counsel them to think again. Tony Blair may be beyond help. But John Major, if not Michael Heseltine, deserves better.