full of risks and uncertainties
By NORMAN ST JOHN-STEVAS
Next Thursday, thanks to the
manoeuvrings and machinations of Mr Harold Wilson to create a semblance of unity in the Labour Party, where in fact none exists, Britain will be going through one of the sorrier episodes in her history — fitting enough in view of the depths to which we have already sunk.
The referendum is a sham and a fraud, since by international law we are not free to leave the Community. To break a solemn treaty obligation is had enough, but to seek to do so by means of an alien device, unknown to our constitution, is little short of intolerable. The outcome of the referendum will make no difference to one vote at any rate, and that is mine.
I have been a member of the European Movement for 25 years, have worked all my political life for British membership of the Community, and was twice elected last year on a pro-Community platform. I am not now going to turn around and deny both my deepest convictions and my pledged word to facilitate the continuance of Mr Wilson or anyone else in power.
I am writing on this subject this week at the express request of our new Editor — to whom I wish long life, happiness and high circulation — but I trust this will he the last I have to write on this distasteful subject. Next week I will be returning to the subject of the liturgy and the points raised by Fr Howell, SJ, and others in the correspondence columns.
One simple way of making up one's mind on how to vote in this unconstitutional farce is to run through the list of those who are opposed to continued British membership of the Community. Anyone who is in doubt should note that ranged against the Community are Mr Enoch Powell, Mr Hugh Scanlon, Mr Brezhnev, the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mr Tony Benn, the Rev Ian Paisley, the leaders of Sinn Fein (the political arm of that gangof murderers and cutthroats, the Provisional IRA), and so I could go on.
Of course there are some reasonable men and women who would like to see Britain come out of the Community, but they should take a close look at their allies and ask what their motives are.
A second negative reason for remaining in the Community is our perilous economic sitUation. At a time when we are loaded with external debt, when the borrowing requirement at home is racing to f. 1 ,000,000,000, when wages have broken entirely from control, when inflation is soaring upwards at a rate unknown in our whole history, this is emphatically not the moment to add yet another uncertainty fo our position.
The crisis of confidence in our currency and in our future, which would be caused by a British vote for withdrawal, would bring on, within a matter of hours, a sterling crisis of a
kind entirely new to our experience. We would be unable to buy abroad the food and raw materials by which we live and our standard of living would suffer a precipitous fall.
If that were not enough we should face a future full of risks and uncertainties. It is one thing to negotiate for entry into a community when you know the terms and you know the prospects, it is quite another to withdraw unilaterally into an unsympathetic world which provides no other haven or grouping. The Commonwealth certainly does not provide us with an economic alternative: virtually every Commonwealth leader has advised us to refrain from breaking our solemnly pledged word and to remain inside the Community. A free-trade area could certainly not be constructed in the changed circum stances of today: we would find ourselves in an isolation which would be quite the reverse of e splendid.
Even our old friend, the United States, could not be expected to bail us out since we would have given an effective demonstration of just how unreliable an ally we would prove. To pick the moment when you have just broken one major treaty is not a propitious one to negotiate another.
Yet when all the economic arguments have been rehearsed, the most important reasons for remaining within the Community are strategic and political. Europe, and indeed the world, is still threatened by the advance of atheistic Communism. At a time when Western prestige has crumbled away in South-East Asia and the Communists are seeking to engineer a coup in Portugal, which would turn the SouthWestern flank of NATO, it would be criminal folly to weaken out our defences further. And, of course, they would be weakened by our withdrawal from the Cornmunity. since defence and economics in the modern world are inextricably intertwined.
The political reasons for renewed membership are equally compelling. Britain, over her long history, has always sought influence in the world, both to promote her own interests and to protect the peace and stability of the international cornmunity.
Isolated and alone, we should be compelled to abide by the decisions of others, whether they advanced or hindered our policies. We should be at the mercy of the decisions of others: whereas within a larger grouping, although we would not have our own way entirely, our 'voice would still be effective.
Furthermore, we have one thing of great value to contribute to the European Community, and that is our long and stable tradition of Parliamentary and democratic Government. Indeed, that is the principal reason why, despite all our recent weakness and shabby behaviour, the nations of the European Community still want us to remain a member.
The great need of the Community in the future will be for effective and extended political institutions, which will bring the Brussels bureaucracy under control. After next Thursday, I trust that we will be able to set our hands to this great task and consign the folly and dishonour of the last 12 months to the lumber room of the past.