Home U.K Ted Heath crushed English identity after Europe move 'created backlash'

Ted Heath crushed English identity after Europe move 'created backlash'

0


Margaret Thatcher almost sacked by Ted Heath reveals Clarke

The Brexit vote caused a storm in the UK with experts in all fields attempting to provide the country with an answer as to why we voted out. Many things were floated: an abundance of red tape and Brussels bureaucracy, unchecked immigration and EU laws, among other things. One of the less seriously considered driving forces behind the vote was national identity and a fear that the EU was in some way diluting a sense of Britishness.

Although this may in part be true, political scientists Professor Richard Wyn Jones and Ailsa Henderson in a new book claim that while British identity played a role in the ballot, a more prevalent theme was England’s fear that its sense of Englishness was at threat.

Their comprehensive study, ”Englishness: The Political Force Transforming Britain’, reveals an emerging English identity, stronger than ever before in a post-Brexit Britain.

Prof Wyn Jones said that up until the vote, many in England felt their national identity had in one way or another been undermined by the EU and the UK – that devolved nations had better deals than England.

He claimed that the country’s identity crisis and subsequent hit-out could be traced back to former Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath, the man who, with the stroke of a pen, entered the UK into the EU’s precursor, the EEC, in 1973.

Ted Heath: The former Conservative PM took the UK into Europe in 1973

Ted Heath: The former Conservative PM took the UK into Europe in 1973 (Image: GETTY)

England: English national identity has been a factor largely overlooked regarding the Brexit vote

England: English national identity has been a factor largely overlooked regarding the Brexit vote (Image: GETTY)

He told Express.co.uk: “There are a couple of things going on here: one is this English sense of unfair treatment within the UK, so there’s a domestic side to it.

“But there’s also an international side to it, and that’s basically Britain’s rightfully leading role in the world has been lost and needs to be regained.

“Heath was not the only person to advocate taking the UK into what became the EU, there were earlier attempts which were rebuffed.

“I would say Heath was reflecting a more general sense across Britain’s political leadership that following the demise of the Empire, and the UK’s emergence from World War 2 in a much weakened state economically, politically, and involuntarily, something had to give.

JUST INUK hot weather: Britain to bask in glorious weekend heatwave

EEC: Heath signing the UK up to the Common Market in 1972

EEC: Heath signing the UK up to the Common Market in 1972 (Image: GETTY)

“And the obvious thing was to pivot towards Britain’s near neighbours.

“I think that certainly over the longer term that decision has generated a backlash, and that backlash ended up with the Brexit vote in 2016.”

Mr Heath’s decision contributed to a sense of diminishing English national sentiment.

This was while the idea of Britain and England became interwoven, almost one and the same thing.

Although, in Prof Wyn Jones’ new book this trend appears to declining, and even reversing.

Many believe Mr Heath could have avoided signing up to the EEC altogether, and claim he committed the UK to Europe in haste.

Robert Tombs, the British historian, subscribes to this idea.

DON’T MISS

Indian Covid strain has ‘hallmarks of very dangerous virus’ [REPORT]
Lewis Hamilton told he’s ‘losing the plot’ in veganism row [INSIGHT]
BBC ‘completely out of touch’ with the public after record complaints 
[ANALYSIS] 

Europe news: Heath holds up a map of the EEC

Europe news: Heath holds up a map of the EEC (Image: GETTY)

Margaret Thatcher: She, along with Heath, was a fierce proponent of Britain in Europe

Margaret Thatcher: She, along with Heath, was a fierce proponent of Britain in Europe (Image: GETTY)

As Prof Wyn Jones alluded to, Mr Heath and his colleagues feared that the UK was on the cusp of becoming obsolete as Britain’s Empire was reaching its expiry date.

Mr Tombs, however, believes that, “in hindsight, this wasn’t the case”.

He told Express.co.uk: “People don’t ask if the UK rushed into Europe often, and I think the UK did rush into it.

“You could say Britain was hanging around for several years after the European Coal and Steel Community was created.

Brexit latest: Five of the key moments that led to Brexit

Brexit latest: Five of the key moments that led to Brexit (Image: Express Newspapers)

“But nevertheless, there was a desire to get into the EEC later on which retrospectively seems too hasty.

“We weren’t under such pressure as people of the time thought.

“If we’d been willing to take our time over it, and maybe sign a deal with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – which we were a founder member – then we’d probably have had a better and more stable relationship with the EEC.

“Many politicians and civil servants at the time felt under pressure because they thought Britain was in decline and that this was going to save the country.

Englishness: Richard Wyn Jones said the English national identity is reemerging Brexit's wake

Englishness: Richard Wyn Jones said the English national identity is reemerging Brexit’s wake (Image: GETTY)

“In hindsight, this wasn’t the case.”

If Mr Tombs is right, then England may have avoided its current identity crisis.

The success of devolution, a strong to almost likely chance Scotland will become independent, a burgeoning independence campaign in Wales, added to whispers of Irish unification, might lead England to one day itself leave the Union.

According to a poll carried out by Business for Scotland last year, 49 percent of over 1,000 people asked said they advocated an independent England.



LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here