The UK will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, on March 29 2017, and begin the process of bringing to an end our membership of the European Club. Great works often involve numerous contributors. Here are 50 of them.
Two groups of twenty people will be followed by a Brexit top ten on the momentous day. It should be noted that that not all those who contributed to this moment would wish to be given credit!
Charles de Gaul – French President who originally blocked UK entry into the community. He doubted the political will of Britain and had strong doubts about attempting to include the Anglo-Saxon model within the community. For many, he was correct with over 40 years of heel dragging,and our Janus like attitude, finally ending in the UK abandoning ship. However it is also possible that had we been properly involved from an earlier stage both the EU and our relationship with it would have been entirely different.
Alan Sked – Founder of the Anti Federalist League which renamed itself UKIP. Also a founding member of The Bruges Group. The combined influence of these two groups on the Conservative Party and, in turn, the general public could be cited as the reason for the rise of the Eurosceptic vision.
John Longworth – Former Director General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry). Resigned during the referendum campaign due to feeling unable to speek freely in opposition to the EU. Became a watchword for the questionable tactics of No.10, who were insinuated to have pressured the CBI to act, after Longworth declared his intentions.
Tony Benn – Totemic Labour figure who argued consistently, for over 40 years, making the perfect patriotic case for “the left” to oppose the EU. Despite his passing in 2014, his status ensured that he was regularly mentioned and quoted during the campaign. Many off the predictions made by Benn in the 1975 referendum had become apparent truths by 2016.
Aaron Banks – By backing UKIP, and then founding and operating Leave.EU, Banks did that rare thing, put his money where his mouth was. By his own statement he contributed around £6 million toward the cause. Quantifying the success of his efforts is empirically impossible, but the backing of Farage & UKIP enabled their influence to be felt very strongly.
Lord (David) Owen – A heavyweight political figure with a pro EU hinterland. The youngest Foreign Secretary since before WWII carries considerable gravitas. His slow but steady conversion was completed with Owen making a superb case for voting Leave in the early days of Vote Leave’s burgeoning campaign.
Enoch Powell – Despite Powell being hugely controversial in UK politics, his views and actions on Europe seem to have been treated as a separate entity by most. His efforts to earn the original referendum and the fact that he never wavered in either opinion or passion gave his views a credibility and a fairness of hearing that in other areas he had sacrificed. Many others in this list would credit Powell either in public or private with a huge contribution. Powell had been present to see Ted Heath’s defeat by, and bitterness toward, Margaret Thatcher. Many think he would have enjoyed Heath’s final humiliation even more.
John Mills – A true stalwart of Labour/Left Eurosceptism. From secretary of the Euro Safeguards Campaign through to being the founder of Labour Leave. Mills can lay claim to being one of the most constant, long-term and influential anti EU campaigners still playing an active role. He can also, of course, claim victory!
Sir James (Jimmy) Goldsmith – A larger than life figure whose ill-timed death, in 1997, means that many are not aware of his huge contribution. Goldsmith was wary of the EU from the beginning. After seeing many of his fears confirmed, by the Maastrict treaty, he vowed to take action. Among many other insightful predictions, was his belief that it would take a force from outside the “big three” mainstream political parties. Had he survived his referendum party may have been that force. His efforts to circumvent the media, via mass distribution of free video tapes, and belief that they and the political parties were complicit in a betrayal of the nation, were aped by UKIP and Nigel Farage with their insurgent campaign over the 19 years since Goldsmith’s death. Sir Jimmy can be credited with the putting a referendum front and centre!
Sir John Major – The former Prime Minister has had plenty of involvement with the E.U. From his assurance that his negotiation at Maastrict was “Game, Set and Match to Britain” to his doom laden interventions during the later stages of the referendum campaign via his struggles to placate the Eurosceptic “Bastards” within his own party during the 1990’s. The long and short of it is that the ramming through of the Maastrict bill, and the fierce opposition it generated, combined with the near , electorally at least, destruction of the Conservative & Unionist Party ensured that Major would always be linked with the struggles to deal with the European issue. His later interventions have ensured that this link will be entirely negative.
Kate Hoey – A rareity in politics, even more so on her side of the E.U. debate, Kate is a long-standing Labour MP, and former minister, who holds major points of difference and principle with party orthodoxy. Labour, Northern Irish and female, Kate is seen by the vast majority in a positive light. Tireless campaigner and willing to build bridges that others lack, either the courage or, the will to build. A strong voice that added to the impression that voting Leave was not an extremist, or any other ist, but a principled, thought through and even sensible proposition.
Jacques Delors – The first three term president of the European Commission oversaw the initiation of The Single Market but at the same time fanned the flames of UK dissatisfaction. The contemptuous reaction of Margaret Thatcher, particularly in her Bruges Speech in 1988, to Delors’ vision of the expanded role of the European Institutions and direction of EU legislation, can be marked out as one of the first, and strongest, rejections of the E.U.’s direction of travel on the basis of UK exceptionalism. The Sun newspaper’s withering headline, a few weeks later, summed up the view of the right-wing press. “Up Yours Delors” remains amongst the high water marks of such opinion.
John Redwood – A standard-bearer for Eurosceptics ,through the 1990’s, Redwood is famed for challenging John Major when others took frit. In what should have been a warning to David Cameron, regarding the inherent amount of anti E.U. feeling within the party, Redwood managed to gain nearly a quarter of the vote despite running against an incumbant Prime Minister who had won his own mandate at the general election.
Steve Baker – Conservative MP and unofficial leader of the Conservative Eurosceptic MP’s (Conservatives for Britain) during the run up to and fighting of the 2016 referendum. Operated a superb hit and run campaign, mainly within parliament, to ensure the Leave campaign was given a level playing field. Without him it is possible that no Purdah period would have been in place and cabinet ministers would have had to resign in order to campaign on the Leave side.
Anthony Bamford – As Chairman of one of the most recognisable, and global, British companies the JCB boss was of aid to Leave in more ways than one. The financial donation was useful. But writing to his employees advocating Vote leave and then allowing his name and reputation to be added to Vote Leave’s campaign was hugely significant, considering the lack of those willing to come out publicly, Bamford was also very courageous. Giving Boris and Gove et al real, instantly trusted, examples to cite whenever they were in a corner, cannot be understated.
Jean Claude Junker – It is often said that good leaders are lucky with who they have as enemies. The current head of the European Commission could be classed as a good enemy. A reputation for liquid consumption combined with being a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg made an easy target for the UK tabloid press, and Nigel Farage’s European Parliament speeches, the later achieved large audience via You Tube and provided a useful back channel to UK voters.
Lord (Norman) Lamont – In the years since black/white Wednesday Lamont reputation as a conservative and Eurosceptic has been steadily restored. Limited public utterances, together with a measured a reasonable tone, ensured that when he chose to enter the debate he was a strong asset. Balancing the weight of former chancellors, and not seeming to suffer from the old man in a hurry issue of others. Strong experience of the damage caused by, gifting control of finances to, supranational bodies proved highly useful.
Ronald K Noble – Former Interpol boss who in his own words, written for the New York Times, called “The Shengen Zone” Europe’s welcome sign for terrorists. When added to disputed claims that a head of Europol ( it even sounds like a junior version!) estimated a large number of ISIS devotees were infiltrating the E.U., via the refugee system, this quote ensured that Leave advocates had some heavy hitting, and difficult to rebut, claims on issues of security and The Free Movement of people.
Peter Cruddas – Backer and supporter of a number of Eurosceptic groups over a long period. Supported the formation of Change Britain in the aftermath of the referendum to ensure that Brexit was delivered and the Britain gained the benefits expected.
Gerard Lyons – One of the, truly brave, Economists for Brexit. Imagine if project fear had proven true, Lyons and his colleagues would have been derided and their reputation severely trashed. Strange then that they are not currently regarded as Hero Economists! It may well be true that as economic advisor to Boris Johnson, during his mayoralty, Lyons played an even stronger hand of influence than is generally acknowledged.
Next 20 coming soon!