Veterans for Britain is calling for Sir Winston Churchill’s clear and consistent view about the UK remaining “separate” from a unified Europe to be acknowledged now that the design of a new £5 note featuring the wartime leader is revealed.
Veterans for Britain’s membership includes ex-service personnel from every UK conflict since World War Two. The group has collated research with the help of historians and has consulted its members.
The group believes that for too long the wartime leader’s words have been misrepresented as ‘equivocal’ when all of his words and speeches actually left no room for confusion.
Veterans for Britain chairman Major-General Julian Thompson says: “It is time for this matter to be settled finally. All of the evidence about Churchill’s view on the matter says he wanted Britain to be a separate sponsor and friend to the developing union in Europe.
“As Churchill’s face once again becomes a part of our daily lives, people will talk more of his constant references to being ‘separate’ and ‘friend and sponsor’ of the European project, it is clear Churchill never saw Britain as a full member.
“These points are often overlooked, especially when the EU and its fervent supporters quote Churchill as one of the founding fathers. We are confident that the public debate about Churchill will now include his statements on this matter and we will see an end to the suppression of his view that the UK would be best served as a separate, distinct and independent democracy.”
Historian Professor Andrew Roberts said: “The fact that Churchill’s unwavering opinion has been obscured by the ‘remain’ campaign is a sign of the scramble over his legacy which does the public no justice. The equivocation over Churchill’s view owes much to the fact that many of the so-called guardians of the Churchill legacy over the decades have been a who’s who of the European federalist elite of the UK.
“These people knew they could never succeed in placing Churchill among their number because he never advocated the UK being conjoined with the European project. Therefore the best they could do was to claim that his view was somehow uncertain, claiming that we wouldn’t know what he would say today.
“That’s nonsense for several reasons. Firstly because he made his view clear repeatedly. He said no to the UK joining. He wanted the other European nations to cooperate for the sake of peace and prevention of war if they chose to be a party to it, but did not entertain the idea of the UK as a part of it.
“Secondly, because the project of European unification has the same headline goals in the 1950s as it does today. Although the EU has turned into something distant and undemocratic, it was always an amalgamation project of which Churchill wanted the UK to have no part. He regarded the UK as having a role as a close ally but saw no purpose in the UK’s inclusion.”
Professor Roberts added: “It’s wonderful that Churchill is on the fiver, it will remind people to put the country’s interests first on 23 June.”
- In the Commons, 11 May 1953, Churchill clearly expressed his view:
“Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition ‘with’ but not ‘of’—we are with them, but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire.”
- Earlier, in a cabinet memo, 29 November 1951, Churchill had addressed the nascent EU explicitly:
“Our attitude towards further economic developments on the Schuman lines resembles that which we adopt about the European Army. We help, we dedicate, we play a part, but we are not merged with and do not forfeit our insular or commonwealth character.”
- In his ‘Zurich speech’, he stopped short of calling for Britain to be part of a United Europe, merely a “friend” and “sponsor”:
“Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia – for then indeed all would be well – must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.”
Veterans for Britain interviewed a few of its WW2 veteran members on Churchill:
Dunkirk veteran and former member of the Royal Engineers and 51st Highland Regiment, Colin Ashford (97) said: “This confirms what those of us who heard Churchill already knew. It’s unthinkable to us that Churchill would ever have given up our democratic independence. In those days we thought of ourselves as fighting for freedom and democracy, which we were. Over the years that has been eroded by the European Union.”
WW2 RAF veteran Bryan Neely (91) said: “We must be absolutely clear that as veterans the stand that we took for democracy and the country’s survival in the 1940s is on our minds in exactly the same way today when we consider how Britain must get out of the EU and establish its own choices and its own direction again.”
RAF veteran Leslie Sumner BEM (90), said: “The notion of democracy is timeless, it doesn’t belong to any era but should be the right and preserve of every era. That’s why it is amazing to me that in an era when we feel we have improved so much, the fundamentals of our democracy are skewed and hampered by this European Union. That’s something we can and must change. There is no excuse for any politician to throw away their own people’s right to self-determination.”
Historian Andrew Roberts continued:
“The views of Churchill neatly reflect the dichotomy that exists in the EU today, that is the zeal of continental countries for amalgamation contrasted with the apathy or outright opposition towards it from people in the UK. Churchill was a great democrat. The only question is the extent to which he would have criticised the absence of democracy for countries that are a part of today’s EU.
“This confirms what our veterans already knew that the wartime leader would never have surrendered the United Kingdom’s autonomy and the democratic rights of its people to a system over which it has no control. Even to claim that Churchill’s views were in any doubt is bad enough but to claim that he would have willingly placed the UK on a trajectory to amalgamation simply defames and traduces the character of the great leader. He knew what European unity meant because he was one of its architects. That’s why he believed it wasn’t right for Britain.”
Notes to editors
About Veterans for Britain:
Veterans for Britain is led by ex-Armed Forces personnel but welcomes support from everyone who cares about the UK’s autonomy, particularly in defence, and wants our country to break free from the European Union.
The UK and its Armed Forces would be freer, more effective, more democratic and more able to retain their distinctive capabilities and ethos if they were without the impositions being applied by the EU in defence command, defence structures, operations, procurement, intelligence and the development of new technology.
We believe it is essential to maintain and where necessary re-establish the United Kingdom’s autonomy in defence in the context of its pre-existing alliances and to ensure it is directly and solely accountable to the UK Parliament.
For more information or to talk to any of the people quoted, please contact David Banks 07512400122 [email protected]