As the process begins to formally withdraw the UK from the EU, the debate rages on in Melton as to whether it’s a good move or if we should have stayed put.
Back in 1975, in a series of letters in the Melton Times, Ben Brown prophesised doom and gloom if the nation became a long-term member of the union.
He urged fellow readers not to vote to stay in what was then called the European Economic
Community (EEC) because he feared the impact of a loss of sovereignty and trading
Mr Brown, a retired lecturer at Brooksby College, is now 82 and believes his misgivings have been proved correct 42 years later.
On the other side of the fence is 67-year-old old Mick Jones, who believes we are making a
massive mistake by voting to leave the EU.
The Twyford and Thorpe Satchville parish councillor believes the UK has benefited enormously from trade agreements with other member states and European laws protecting employees and consumer rights.
But Mr Brown said he was delighted when Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 to
officially start the process of leaving the UK.
He said: “The loss of sovereignty was the big issue for me. We were signing away so many
powers by becoming part of Europe.
“It’s not that I don’t like Europeans – I actually lived in France for four years.
“I just liken it to the situation that you might want your friend to stay but you wouldn’t want them to take over your house.”
When Mr Brown wrote his letters to the Melton Times, Edward Heath’s government had
decided the country should join the EEC two years earlier.
But in 1975, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and he held a referendum giving the public a
chance to vote to leave or remain, much like last year’s poll on our EU membership.
Mr Brown’s passion for the ‘leave’ vote came through clearly in his letters published over
five weeks in this newspaper.
In the May 2 issue he wrote: “The sovereignty issue is something which is not immediately
apparent to the uninformed (and, therefore, in many cases the disinterested).
“If we remain in the EEC, the effects of the shift of power will gradually become more
apparent……In 10 or 20 years, the situation is likely to be rather different as succeeding
generations of commissioners and councillors tighten their grip in order to create a political union, which must of necessity be of a dictatorial nature.”
Mr Brown continued to contest other readers’ points of view through the Melton Times letters page, arguing that the UK already traded with the rest of the world and didn’t need to rely on European trade agreements.
In the issue for May 30, 1975, he wrote: “In or out of the EEC, the UK is in for a tough time financially.
“If we leave the EEC, there are politicial knots to unravel which the politicians hardly dare to acknowledge.
“If we stay in, we shall see power increasingly transferred (already started) from
Westminster to Brussels, and we lose control over national and domestic issues. This is the price.”
Mick Jones said that although the make-up of the EU had changed over times since the UK first joined he had continued yo support our memmbership.
“I supported us going into Europe at the start and I still feel we should be part of it,” he said.
“For the ordinary person I think it has been a good thing. It’s changed from what was originally proposed when Heath took us into it in the 1970s but people have become accustomed to it over time and we have looked more readily towards Europe.”
Mr Jones said he sympathised with Brexit-supporters who were keen to reduce immigration levels, citing the example of Boston as a city with an increasingly large immigrant population.
But he said there were plenty of reasons why the UK should have stayed in the EU.
“People who voted to leave talked about the opportunities to trade in new markets such as
India and China but we were already dealing with them,” he said.
Mr Jones said he was not confident the government could negotiate a good deal with the EU for when the country officially leaves the union. And he feels many ‘leave’ voters did not realise how much it will cost the nation to withdraw.
“No Brexiteers have mentioned the cost of leaving, which is now becoming apparent,” he added.
“There are extra costs imposed on the UK government with having to hire an estimated 1,000
negotiators to deal with leaving the EU and we are also having now to negotiate free trade agreements with other countries.”
What do think about the Brexit debate? Do you believe the UK should have stayed in the EU or are you happy we are out? How do you think the referendum decision will impact on your life in the Melton borough. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us your views.