Monday, 8 April 2013

A complicated legacy

Though we missed the actual day of her passing (by less than an hour) the subject of Margaret Thatcher remains the one that preoccupies everyone's thoughts and discussions. Those of us who do not like the European Union and its policies and would like to see Britain out of it, making her own policies on all subjects including fisheries and creating treaties and agreements as needed, have an inevitably ambivalent attitude to the Iron Lady and her legacy.

She was, as we know, a member of Edward Heath's government, which negotiated Britain's entry into the Common Market. We have traced the events of 1970 here and here. Suffice it to say that a surrender of Britain's fishing grounds was part of the deal. It was not discussed widely and more or less denied in Parliament.

In the 1975 referendum called after some very superficial "renegotiations" Thatcher campaigned vigorously on the yes side. She also signed the Single European Act, apparently not realizing the effect it will have on Britain's economy.

But, let us also be fair. She did realize earlier than many of her colleagues where the whole project was leading as she made it clear in her famous Bruges speech. Whether she really would have called a halt to the process of integration and socialist regulation, whether she could even have managed to do so is irrelevant as soon after this her party got rid of her in a way that has steadily undermined them. It will be interesting to see whether with Thatcher's death that particular sore will finally be healed. Still she did not sign the Maastricht Treaty, which incorporated the Common Fisheries Policy, thus making it impossible to change, reform or, especially, destroy. That was Sir John Major's achievement though he seems to have forgotten it.

After her resignation Lady Thatcher concentrated on promoting the various ideas of anti-statism that are associated with her name, making a few cautious eurosceptic comments. She was more outspoken on the European issue in private but did not want to undermine her successors in the Conservative party. No doubt she recalled Edward Heath's "Great Sulk" and did not want to emulate it. A great pity, in many ways.

The passing of Margaret Thatcher does remind us of the paucity of political talent around us.


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