The establishment may be repulsive, but on this it is right

12th June 2016

Andrew Mitchell writes for The Times...

It is clear that the result of this referendum rests on a knife edge, with the real possibility that Britain will leave the European Union. I have reached my own decision with mixed emotions.

I do not believe that Armageddon will follow, whichever way Britain votes. I have never understood the destructive emotions that the subject evokes in perfectly sane, decent Conservative MPs.

I was a junior government whip during the dramas of the Maastricht debate (family photos show the experience turned my hair white). This time the party’s agonies are acute but containable.

John Major can be forgiven his heated comments about the “leave” campaign, given how badly his party treated him. But he was wrong about Boris Johnson and has forgotten how cross he was with me when I put Boris on the candidate list to become an MP. Boris was plainly a Eurosceptic and was busy riling our high command by writing disobliging articles from Brussels.

Nor is it in the interest of the “remain” campaign to demonise Boris. It is best to play the ball and not the man. Were I still chief whip, my friend Amber Rudd would be summoned to my office for an interview without coffee.

It is hard not to feel queasy as the British Establishment lines up behind “remain”, but for all the romance and pluckiness there is something of the past about arguments for leaving the EU.

I’m reminded of the description in 1066 and All That of the cavaliers (who lost the Civil War) as “wrong but wromantic” and the roundheads (who won) as “right but repulsive”.

The effects of globalisation and all that I learnt from my experiences in international development argue for deeper international co-operation.
Authoritarian tides are rising from Moscow to Cairo. Since Napoleon, the guiding principle of our foreign policy has been to prevent a coalition against us on continental

Europe. If we leave, we will have turned our back on this strategic foundation stone, to the dismay of our US allies and the delight of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The big future threats we face include migration caused by climate change, terror and profound and demeaning poverty. As the largest and wealthiest trading bloc in the world, Europe will be a magnet for suffering people and a stronger pan-European approach will be essential.

We have gained immeasurably from the single market, which is why Margaret Thatcher imposed a three-line whip on the Conservative party to support it. It is inconceivable that leaving the EU will increase the freedom to trade that we currently enjoy. Membership of this club has always been a two-way street. But a prosperous and secure future for our children demands a vote to “remain”.
To quote the punk band the Clash: “Should I stay or should I go now? If I stay there will be trouble — and if I go it will be double.”


I’m not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on 12th December 2019. This website will not be updated during the election campaign and is for reference of my work when I was a Member of Parliament.

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