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The University of Southampton
Centre for English Identity and Politics

Judith Clementson

“England and the EU”

12 March 2016

University of Winchester

Judith Clementson, Hampshire Independent Councillor


This is an uncorrected transcript of talks given at the ‘England and the EU’ seminar held at the University of Winchester on 12 March 2016. Please do not quote without seeking permission from the speaker.

Good afternoon everyone and thank you very much for inviting me.  First of all, I am going to ask for forgiveness; forgiveness because I’m not an academic nor a statistician, nor a politician.  So I am not going to attempt - nor could I - to throw more facts and figures at you and ask you to discern the truth from the fiction, because many of us do not know at the moment.  I am not even going to bother to tell you my life story as I think Roy has done that nicely and summed it up.  Instead. I am going to take a few minutes to just speak from my heart and tell you why I am a Eurosceptic. And I think, being part of the campaign and being out there, I am going to ask one question, if I may, and a show of hands.  How many of you are actually out there on the streets; prepared to go knocking on doors, speaking to people, for either side, or do you just have the thoughts, your own thoughts?  So could we just see how many of you are active on the campaign.  About half, that’s excellent, thank you. 

Like many of us here I am old enough to remember England of the 1950s.  It was a time of unrest and change in a post-war Britain.  There was a rebellious spirit that came into the teenagers with the rock 'n' roll and their outlet was the music.  then came the 'swinging sixties' and with it a whole new liberal way of living.  It was a 'live for today' culture under the threat of a nuclear war; families started to break up and move away from the bomb damaged inner cities and migrants from West India, Africa, Asia started coming to Britain - and they filled the vacated homes and the gaps lost by those who had died in the recent war.  In fact, the face of English cities, essentially around London and the North, changed significantly.  Some would say that this was a time when Britain stopped believing in God and I say this because I am a Christian. 

All this while, behind closed doors, the European project was underway.  Several attempts had been made by the British government to join the foundling EEC but France blocked our entry for a decade because de Gaulle was afraid for his own French economy.  Why? Because he feared for the CAP plans for his predominantly peasant French farmers and he worried that our entry would question and de-rail those plans.  Now of course they fear that we will leave the EU!

But today is about England and the EU so I ask myself what makes me want to leave the European Union and why is it that after so many years I still regard myself as English and not European.  I suppose it is that 'something English' for me conjures up a picture of quaintness, of something quirky, but a stalwart nation which prided itself in fair play and its integrity.  It had a worldwide reputation as an empire builder with an unbeatable navy and a people who believed in God and were blessed by it.  We made our way in this world because we had courage and valour and, with hindsight of course, we did many things in history that were ungracious, often arrogant, overbearing and sometimes downright shameful.  But we also fought bravely against injustice, defending the defenceless and standing against tyranny where no other nation would.  So when I think of the English people, I am sorry, but I think white, Anglo Saxon with a bit of Celt, Viking, yes and probably a bit of Roman as well thrown in.  I believe British on the other hand no longer identifies with that picture of Englishness but is now identified more by the Blairite multicultural society of the noughties.  And I believe this is why, geographically, we have such diverse views on our continued membership of the EU.   I imagine, but I don’t know, that those who identify themselves as British will mostly include first, second, third generation migrants, immigrants, and are more likely to be found in the cities of the North and London itself.  And they probably do not identify with the picture of 'Englishness I have just described. 

So let me say clearly now:  I do not consider myself either as xenophobic or a racist and I am purely making this distinction because I believe that it is the white Anglo Saxon population in Britain that feel more protective towards their heritage and their roots than, perhaps, an immigrant or their descendants would, even if he or she was born here.  And another group that is similarly less concerned for their English roots, and they are the children of the nineties; part of the new 'me, me, me' material society that has grown up.  And the majority of them seem to care little either way whether we are in Europe or not - present company excepted please.  So they show.... they tend to show, a complete uninterest in politics, and I am giving this view from somebody who has been out on the street speaking to so many people.  They are not here today which is interesting so that, I think, just upholds the point. 

So what about the EU? How does one identify a European nation or people?  Almost certainly you would not describe an Eastern European person in the same way that you would describe an indigenous French or German.  Maybe you would also struggle to describe a European culture.  Why?  Because we all have our national characteristics, and that very same nationality is what gives each of us a sense of belonging, a history, a culture, a heritage.  It is also the very reason why I do not believe the European project will ever work as long as these identities exist.  The idea that we can all roam at will across the fields of Europe and be stripped of our cultural differences and our history and remoulded into a single European nationality makes the EU no better than a communist or a fascist state!  And it is interesting that I was late this morning because I have a young couple staying with me from the Czech Republic.  He said to me ‘Why doesn’t Britain want to get out of the EU?  I am Czechoslovakian and I want to get out of the EU because I was dominated by Russia and now I’m going to be dominated by Europe.  Why don’t your people want to get out?’  And I said, ‘Well I do [want to get out of the EU] but I can’t explain it to other people’.  So I just want to say this about the European Union culture.  The mere fact that it has an unelected Commission making laws with a European Court of Justice taking precedence over our own national courts and legislation is sufficient for me to believe that England, as a free and sovereign nation, and the English identity will be lost forever if we do not vote to go out. 

And what about our sovereignty?  It is a major issue for me.  When I voted to join the Common Market in 1975 - and I did - I did not consider for one moment that a sovereign Britain could be brought to an end through the backroom dealings of politicians.  Not a sword was drawn, no guns fired or bombs dropped, instead it was a pen - a mere pen - that has achieved something the Romans failed to do, the Spanish, the French and more recently the Germans; twice!  The very people who were elected as custodians of our sovereignty, our politicians, just signed it away!  They had no right whatsoever to do so.  It’s bad enough that their actions have led us further into a federal Europe but to surrender our democracy - and that is the bit that worries me - to unelected foreign bureaucrats without a mandate from the people is, in my mind, unforgivable.  And I say without being… I am emotional about it .... but how the fallen must weep having given their lives to keep us free only to have politicians take it from us.

Now many of us here know what life was like before we joined the EU.  We therefore have some idea what it would be like to leave the EU.  On the other hand, the remain camp have nothing on which to base their grave warnings for Britain outside of Europe although many of us will remember the similar catastrophic warnings when we said 'no' to the euro.  They say Brexit will mean the break-up of the United Kingdom because Scotland and Wales want to remain in the EU and I’ve heard that again today.  Do they?  Perhaps Scotland and Wales should think again and consider their choice and really ask themselves what it is they want to break from the United Kingdom, from Britain for.  Why? Why would they want to do that; to be governed democratically from London or remain in the EU - if they are accepted - and be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?  It sounds to me a bit like the frying pan into the fire.  Similarly, for Wales.  They seem to have had a lot of financial benefit from our EU membership but it won’t seem such a lot perhaps when they have to find twice as much in EU contributions if indeed they are devolved and the United Kingdom is split in favour of some joining the EU and some remaining sovereign. 

I could talk about the 'project fear' and burst some bubbles but really and truthfully, I am here only to tell you why I want to be out of the European Union.  We probably had the world’s greatest navy and the anthem says we ruled the waves; in our darkest hours, strong leaders came forward and people stood together.  They were farmers, fisherman, civil engineers, scientists, whatever you want to say, but somehow we stood together.....until someone decided that 'peace in our times' meant a New World Order and the dissemination of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales into mere numbered regions of a federal Europe; a super state.  Hampshire by the way is region UKJ13.

So call me a little Englander if you will.  I don’t mind because I am very proud of my heritage and my country.  I am British or, more specifically, English.  I am not French or German or Belgian or any of the other 27 nationalities that are in the EU.  And I want my children and my grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to identify with their history.  There is nothing wrong with being patriotic and knowing one’s roots.  If the good Lord had wanted it any other way, He would have given us all one language, one skin colour and one culture.  So when Mr Cameron tells me that to vote leave in the forthcoming referendum is a leap in the dark, a leap into the unknown, unsafe, weaker future I say to him 'Have faith! We are English. We have the knowledge; we have the spirit and we have the history of standing alone.  We have a backbone that strengthens in adversity and we have the heart of a lion.  We have been a thousand years as a sovereign island nation and only forty years shackled to a continent that has spent the same thousand years fighting amongst itself."

I really fear the military implications of an EU military force.  What if somebody wanted to break away? What if your sons and daughters were fighting for the EU or in the EU military and Britain or Scotland or any other country wanted to break away? Would your sons and daughters fight against their own country, their own nation?  I wonder.  I certainly don’t know where it would put me or my husband. 

The England of yesterday may have gone and been replaced by the England of today, drowning under the burden of EU legislation and red tape, multiculturalism and collapsing inadequate infrastructure but an England or tomorrow could be one of renewed hope and a bright future for this country.  At least we would be at the helm of our own destiny.  So don’t tell me a vote to take back control of our laws, our economies, our border and, more importantly, our democratic right to govern ourselves is a 'leap in the dark' Mr Cameron.  It will in fact be like an animal let out of its cage into an open field; it will be a leap into the fresh air and freedom, and that is why I am voting to leave the EU. 

Thank you.






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