Saturday 23 January 2010

Britain exiting the EU: Norman Tebbit proposes divorce

Norman Tebbit, a former chairman of the UK Conservative Party, has recently written two Telegraph columns where he sees the underlying history and culture which have formed the institutions of the other EU members as deeply different and hostile to British ones.

Tebbit imagines that citizens’ rights guaranteed under European constitutions [and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights] are less than “rights” for UK subjects under common law (including parliamentary supremacy?).

Tebbit concludes that Britain should leave the European Union and start thinking about the nature of its future relationship with Europe: I used to believe that Britain had a lot in common with Europe. How wrong I was (20 January 2010) and Britain and the EU: time for a divorce (22 January 2010).

A short while ago, the first column had received 396 comments and the more recent one 261, most of them enthusiastic.

Soon a general election will offer Her Majesty’s subjects the opportunity to elect a Parliament prepared to move from Tebbit’s proposal to a filing for divorce. It would, however, require a major shift, because the current leadership of the three major parties is against secession.

Should David Cameron be ousted, or the majority handed to either UKIP or the BNP?

If Britain sorts out its intention to leave, the Lisbon Treaty guarantees the right for each EU member state to withdraw from the union, although most sane persons agree on the usefulness of a negotiated settlement and a deal on the future relationship.

In my humble opinion, the Norman Conquest (1066) and Magna Carta (1215) offer scant advice on the future of Britain in the world and its relationship with the rest of Europe after withdrawal. Some serious thought should go into that ahead of the general election in order to make the divorce case convincing.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The UK is a heavyweight among EU member states, and Charlemagne’s notebook (The Economist) offers a gateway to some important shades of British thought about European integration.

Charlemagne’s notebook is listed with more than 500 great Euroblogs on growing multilingual, your useful one-stop-shop for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs, i.a. politics, policies, communication, economics, finance, business, civil society and law. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed for new blog posts appearing on

By the way, I also discuss European issues in Finnish on Eurooppaoikeus and in Swedish on Grahnblawg.


  1. My recollection of Tebbitt in (political) power is of someone who was rather like an ex-smoker, who becomes violently hateful anti-smokers. Thus it was with trades unions - and with any group, policy or party involved with social democratic ideals. He was a "black and white, no shades of grey" politician: ie quite out of touch with the pragmatism that government requires.

    I had thought that, since the fall of the Thatcher government and his "elevation" to the peerage, he had disappeared from sight. Not so, it seems. I read the first of the articles you signaled but felt it pointless to go beyond that. He's even further out of touch with the pragmatic needs of modern government it seems.

  2. French Derek,

    If he is out of touch with realities, so must Torygraph readers be. But they represent at least some EU opinions in British society, and a general election is coming upp.

  3. Thanks for flagging this up.

    Tebbitt may lack pragmatism, but the strange contradictory vision of the law and the apparent "legal incompatability" with other European countries is a widespread one, particularly in the Tory party, but not limited to it.

    His description of English law is definitely one I don't recognise (as you pointed out, Grahnlaw, parliamentary sovereignty is at the root of a lot of it). It's very hard for me to have any faith in a future Tory government when Tory party members, MPs and even the leadership consistently reveal a shocking level of ignorance in how the UK actually works, never mind the EU and the UK's relationship with it.

  4. Eurocentric,

    One can only envy the bliss of the Tebbits of this world, who know that they are God's chosen people and infinitely superior to the rest of humanity (if it can be called that).

    But even the chosen ones should work on making their future vision credible.


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