Friday, 5 February 2016

Left-wing euroscepticism: Tony Benn's 1974 letter to his constituents

Euroscepticism is widely regarded as a conservative position. Indeed, in the most recent YouGov poll, only 30% of Conservatives and only 2% of UKIP supporters said the UK should remain in the European Union, compared to 60% of Labour supporters, 63% of Lib Dems, and 69% of other voters (mostly Greens and SNP supporters). Nonetheless, as I have noted before, there are and have been many prominent left-wing eurosceptics. One such eurosceptic was the late Tony Benn. 

I just came across a letter that Benn sent out to his constituents in December of 1974, prior to the upcoming 1975 referendum on Britain's membership of the common market. One particular quote caught my eye (emphasis in original):
But we must recognise that the European Community has now set itself the objectives of developing a common foreign policy, a form of common nationality expressed through a common passport, a directly elected assembly, and an economic and monetary union which, taken together, would in effect make the United Kingdom into one province of a Western European State. The communiqué issued after the recent Paris summit makes these objectives clear.  
Britain's continuing membership of the Community would mean the end of Britain as a completely self-governing nation and the end of our democratically elected Parliament as the supreme law-making body in the United Kingdom.
Benn reiterated his euroscepticism at the Oxford Union in 2013: "They're building an empire there, and they want us to be a part of that empire, and I don't want that". 

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