Am I in the mainstream now?

27 December 2019

12:00 AM

27 December 2019

12:00 AM

The moment of Boris’s victory makes me stop and look back. In the referendum of 1975 — my first vote — I voted ‘Yes’ (i.e. Remain), but I remember feeling a twinge of admiration for Orkney and Shetland, the only area to vote ‘No’.

At Cambridge afterwards, I learnt and liked sovereignty arguments from people like John Casey and (when he paid a private visit to avoid the riots which attended him in those days) Enoch Powell.

In the early 1980s, I cheered on Mrs Thatcher’s European budget battle.

In 1984, attending my first European Council as a reporter, I was shocked by the way of doing business — running a continent as a diplomatic game.

In 1985-86, I felt dismay that Mrs Thatcher was all out for the Single European Act which abolished whole areas of national veto.

At the end of the 1980s, I started belatedly to understand why her battle against ERM entry was so important.

But throughout this gradual disillusionment with the EEC, it did not occur to me, except as an impossible dream, that we would leave. It was only with the Maastricht Treaty, the threat of the single currency and the creation of the European Union that I began to think exit might one day happen.

In the Daily Telegraph (which I was editing) in November 1996, I wrote my first piece explicitly raising the idea, under the headline ‘Tell us why we should stay’. It felt naughty to write this. Nearly a quarter of a century later, I have the curious and, for a journalist, uneasy feeling of being mainstream.

Charles Moore’s Notes appears in The Spectator’s Christmas special

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