Two years on from the Leave vote, we still don't acknowledge how we got hereby Steve Bloomfield / June 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
Two years ago Britain voted to leave the European Union. There is no shortage of decisions, events and blunders that laid the ground for Brexit, from the financial crash in 2008 to Boris Johnson’s wobbly shopping trolley ending up in the Leave aisle, but some of these moments have been less analysed than others. Here, then, are 10 of the least discussed moments from British political history that led us on the path to Brexit.
1988: Jacques Delors’ speech to the TUC
Many of the big unions had opposed British entry into the European Economic Community in 1973—they were still sceptical 15 years later. Delors’ speech at the 1988 TUC Congress, seeking the British left’s support for the single market, was a turning point. He promised a “social Europe” not the “capitalists’ club” that many on the left still feared it would become. Delors received a standing ovation—the unions were on board. But Delors’ speech had unintended consequences. Margaret Thatcher was furious and two weeks later responded with a speech in Bruges bemoaning the threat of a European “superstate.” This was the moment Conservative Euroscepticism was born.
1999: Proportional representation is introduced for European elections
The 1997 Labour manifesto promised a referendum on electoral reform. Then Labour won by a landslide and suddenly the leadership was less keen. As a compromise, PR was brought in for European elections. A fringe right-wing group called the UK Independence Party won six per cent of the vote, granting it three seats, one of which was taken by a 35-year-old public-school-educated commodities trader, Nigel Farage. Ukip gains prominence and—more importantly—money.
2004: Germany says no
Despite being a supporter of the EU’s enlargement to the east, Germany was also concerned about the impact it could have on its labour market. Along with 11 other nations it imposes a seven-year transition period, limiting the right of free movement for citizens from the 10 new nations. Prior to this it had been expected that most Poles travelling to other EU states would move to Germany. Instead more than 430,000 come to the UK over the next three years, far more than predicted.
2004: Blair’s referendum
Calls for a referendum on whether to accept the new EU constitution…