Ancram’s strange reasons for leaving the EU

by David Hannay | 29.04.2016

Michael Ancram, who was deputy leader of the Conservative Party and shadow foreign secretary under Iain Duncan Smith, would have us believe that he was finally persuaded to vote to leave the EU by President Obama’s “disingenuous” support for Britain to remain and by the prime minister’s “mockery of a renegotiation”.

Odd, really, because long before either of those two events Ancram had been telling anyone who wished to know, including the House of Lords, that he favoured withdrawal. Anyway, he has now decided to nail his courage to the main mast – his metaphor, not mine.

What reasons does he give in his Daily Telegraph article?

Firstly, he says the EU “is still hell bent on the achievement of a wholly united Europe, within which our once proud country would become a mere region”. That is a strange argument in a way because the EU, as recently as February, made it clear that the preambular reference in the EU treaty to “an ever closer union among its peoples” does not apply to the UK and that Britain is in no sense committed to a political union. It is stranger still given that, under the terms of the 2011 Referendum Act, any British government is bound by law to submit any further transfer of powers to Brussels to a referendum.

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Secondly, Ancram writes that “for all my political life it has been America’s wish to see the historic nations of Europe fade into a single voice that could then more easily be persuaded to do its bidding”. That is a rather disobliging way to describe initiatives such as the Marshall Plan and the setting up of NATO which brought so much prosperity and security to every country in Europe.

Thirdly, he says the Remain campaign should admit that “they are asking us to vote for that country called Europe”. Well, there is not a country called Europe, nor is there going to be one. Britain does not have a monopoly on the desire to preserve its national identity. Just ask the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Poles and so on.

Finally, Michael Ancram argues that it would be wrong to vote to remain on the grounds that none of this matters because the EU is going to self-destruct anyway. There I agree wholeheartedly, but not for the same reasons: the EU is not about to self-destruct. Its resilience is often underestimated, which is, of course, another reason not to leave.

Edited by Alan Wheatley