On January 1, the post-Brexit transition period expired, meaning EU rules no longer apply in Britain. It is a new chapter for British history – as for the last 48 years, EU membership had constricted the country’s ability to make its own decisions and set its own policies. The journey there was not an easy one, as the time since the Leave vote in June 2016 involved unprecedented levels of parliamentary rancour, public anger and mistrust.
Many parliamentarians and politicians in both the UK and Europe tried to ignore or discredit the democratic will of the people.
One of them is Jim Cloos, a high-ranking European official of long standing esteem, who took on a key role in drafting the Maastricht Treaty.
Speaking to journalist Rebecca Kesby in the BBC podcast Witness History in February, Mr Cloos was asked what he thought after the 2016 EU referendum.
The EU official responded he could not say how he really felt, as he hinted his opinion might contain colourful language.
He explained: “I thought…
“I am not going to say what I thought because I am not allowed to say things like that on the radio.”
Ms Kesby then asked: “Would it be fair to say you were disappointed?”
Mr Cloos replied: “Of course, I was disappointed and even a little bit devastated to be honest.”
He added: “At the same time, I very quickly thought, we’ll have to work for a union of 27.
“It’s a real pity, but life goes on.
“The Union will continue.”
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Mr Cloos joined the Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1981, serving in Bonn and Brussels, including as Luxembourg’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.
It was during that time that he played an active role in drafting the Maastricht Treaty in the early Nineties.
The Treaty is the international agreement that saw what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) evolve into the EU with initially only 12 member states.
It laid down the groundwork for economic and monetary union with a single currency at its heart and new rules on inflation, debt and interest rate regulations.
Ironically, according to former Conservative MEP Lord Daniel Hannan, it was the signing of this Treaty that caused Brexit.
Maastricht was widely unpopular in Britain according to opinion polls and it is what arguably split the Conservative Party on the European issue for decades.
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Former Prime Minister John Major decided to ignore the discontent and signed it in 1992.
When asked why the former Prime Minister did so when there was so much growing opposition, Lord Hannan told Express.co.uk last year: “That is a great question because he didn’t need to.
“His argument was that it was the minimum necessary to keep our foot in the door.
“But then when the Danish people voted against it, that should have been him off the hook.
“If he had taken that opportunity to repudiate the Maastricht Treaty or if he had granted a referendum on it, Britain I suspect would have ended up with some kind of associate status.
“We would have remained effectively under pre-Maastricht terms.”
He added: “Other members would have been able to go ahead with all the common and so on.
“We would have stayed out of it.
“And we would now be associate members to this day and Brexit would not have happened.
“But, as so often, the europhiles overreached.”