For the last 48 years, EU membership has constricted Britain’s ability to have decisions taken, policies set and laws made by people who are directly accountable for those choices. However, in less than ten days, Britain will finally put an end to eurosceptic frustration and regain its independence. On December 31, the transition period will come to an end, meaning the country will say goodbye to the bloc and open a new chapter of its national history, as a “global free-trading nation”.
There was one politician who, 45 years ago, had already called for the country to adopt these outward-looking, international values instead of being confined in an “undemocratic” bloc.
Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the European Economic Community – the precursor to the EU – in 1973, but his successor, Harold Wilson, was forced to call a referendum on the country’s membership just two years later.
The vote saw the country divided into Yes and No campaigns, as opposed to 2016’s “Leave” and “Remain”.
Former Labour MP for Stepney Peter Shore was leading the No campaign alongside another prominent eurosceptic figure in his party, then Industry Secretary Tony Benn.
Just before the referendum, Mr Shore took part in a debate at the prestigious Oxford Union and addressed issues which still exist today.
In particular, the Labour politician made a brilliant argument on why Britain should not stay in a confined bloc.
He said: “We should put to ourselves the facts that the eight countries of Western Europe, important as they are, are not even half of Western Europe itself, let alone the whole of the continent of Europe.
“Nor for that matter should we ignore the fact that there exist outside the continent of Europe altogether more European people or people of European origin?
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“And that [there are more people] in the great continents of North America, Latin America and Australasia that exists in the whole Common Market market put together?
“Beyond that we should recall the fact that our horizon and the concerns that we have in the world as a country and as people are not limited to eight nations and 200 million people in Western Europe, but to the 3000 million people and 140 nations that exist in the six continents of the world.
“The policies that we praise as a government, the causes that we follow as people, the concerns that we have, are not confined and limited to this narrow area across the channel.”
Mr Shore concluded: “For that to happen to Britain it will be a contraction and a reduction of all the things with which we have been concerned.
“It is the world we belong to and it is mankind of which we are part.
“So let us hear.”
The speech was followed by a big round of applause.
Despite Mr Shore’s anti-Europe campaign, on June 5, 1975, British voters approved continued EC/EEC membership by 67 percent to 33 percent on a national turnout of 64 percent.
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Britons had to wait another 41 years for another vote on the matter.
On Christmas Eve, Britain and the EU reached a post-Brexit trade deal after months of fraught and bitter negotiations.
A statement from Downing Street, saying “the deal is done”, was published on Christmas Eve, swiftly followed by a confirmation from Brussels.
Speaking shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the agreement was a “good deal” for the “whole of Europe” – one that signified “a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship”.
He added: “We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny. From January 1, we are outside the customs union and outside the single market. British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament, interpreted by the UK judges sitting in UK courts and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.”
Mr Johnson also said the UK had achieved a “Canada-style” trade deal worth £660 billion and addressed the agreement on fisheries, a major issue during the negotiations, saying that the UK had taken back “full control” of its waters.
The deal is without a doubt a huge triumph for the Prime Minister, who in December last year, won a thumping majority at the general election with the promise “to get Brexit done”.