You are here:   Dialogue > How European are the British?

Daniel Johnson: The Lisbon Treaty is now a fact, although it hasn't yet finally been ratified by the Czechs. President Vaclav Klaus says he doesn't think he will be able to hold on long enough, alas, for the Conservatives to have the option of a referendum after the next election. David, what will you do if this treaty has been ratified by all the member states by the time you come to office? Will you have a referendum anyway? What alternative do you have? And if you do have a referendum, won't it inevitably turn into a referendum on Europe, not just on Lisbon?

David Heathcoat-Amory: David Cameron says that he will not let matters rest there and he will have to colour that in, in due course. Myself, I believe that Lisbon is not the only issue. That is about the next step forward, which I regard as a further step away from self-government. But I don't like much of what we've got already, so I would like to see a new relationship with the
European Union, which should be endorsed by referendum eventually. I think that would legitimise our relationship because we haven't had a national vote since 1975, and you would have to now be over 52 years old to have had a say on how we are governed from Europe, and that is too long.

Piers Paul Read: Before we continue, your readers should know that David and I have been arguing about Europe for a very long time. We have known each other since we were children — we were close neighbours in Yorkshire. We had rather different life experiences in childhood. I enormously admired David and his parents, particularly his father, who was very patrician. He embodied all that was best about an English gentleman and the British Empire, which he served in the army. But we had rather different households, because theirs was a classic English household. Whereas, although my father was purely English, purely Yorkshire, my mother was partly German — she had Italian blood, Scottish blood, she didn't have any English blood. We always had a Bavarian cook and at one time a German-Jewish nanny, who came from Italy before the war. So we had a more cosmopolitan household. And while David used to go on holiday shooting grouse in Scotland, we used to go off to Italy and Bavaria, so naturally I had greater affection for Europe or continental Europe than I think David did — or perhaps greater experience — and after university, I went to live in Berlin and Munich, becoming very attached particularly to Germany, but also to France and Italy.

The second thing I would say as an amateur historian is that the EU is the best thing that has happened in my lifetime, in terms of world history. I think that it is an absolutely fantastic achievement that these nations, particularly France and Germany, that have been fighting each other viciously for hundreds of years, should have been able completely to turn around the hatred and antagonism, the desire for revenge, and form a semi-sovereign combination of states. I always thought that Britain should join it, and luckily, in the end, Britain did. My objection to David is that he then says: we have signed the Treaty of Rome and we accept its ambitions and its intentions, but we want to change all that. It is like joining White's and saying, I think that we should only admit working-class people. Do you see what I mean? He joins the club and then wants to change the rules of the game. Or does he want to leave the club altogether?

View Full Article
Anthony Barden
November 25th, 2010
8:11 PM
No British government can claim to be legitmate until a referendum on membership of the E.U. has been settled by putting it to the British Public in a referendum. No politician has been authorised to usurp the British Public

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.