Since 1973, EU and previously EEC membership has constricted Britain’s ability to make decisions as policies and laws have often been set by people who are not directly accountable for those choices. However, Britain has finally put an end to this. As Brexiteers revel in this historic moment, unearthed reports shed some light on the man who took the country into the bloc in the first place.
Former Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the accession treaty to join the EEC in 1972.
However, that was just the culmination of a lifetime’s effort as the Conservative politician had already started warming to his task in 1961, when Harold Macmillan announced he had applied to join the Community for the first time.
Mr Heath quickly gained the nickname of “Mr Europe” and kept pressing Britain’s cause in Brussels while championing the European aspiration at home.
Despite the failure of Mr Macmillan’s negotiations, Mr Heath’s contribution was still praised.
How Edward Heath was ‘given £1.5 million before signing away UK sovereignty
Britain left the EU yesterday at 11pm
According to his 1993 biography, written by John Campbell, after French President Charles De Gaulle exercised his veto against Britain, Mr Heath responded: “We in Britain are not going to turn our backs on the mainland of Europe or on the countries of the Community.
“We are a part of Europe: by geography, tradition, history, culture and civilisation.”
Because of this speech, he was awarded the Charlemagne Prize in 1963 for his work done towards European unification.
According to 1990 book “Treason at Maastricht” by author Rodney Atkinson and political activist Norris McWhirter, Mr Heath received £75,000 as part of his prize.
In today’s money that equates to around £1.5million.
The book says: “[Mr Heath] certainly benefited, after having signed away British sovereignty in 1972, from the £75,000 Charlemagne Prize – presented by the German city of Aachen – for those who have done most for the construction of the European State.”
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Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Former Prime Minister Edward Heath
A 2005 report by the Daily Telegraph rejected this claim, suggesting Mr Heath actually received much less from the European Parliament.
The report reads: “He was awarded the Charlemagne Prize; and put the £446 bounty towards a Steinway piano.”
After receiving the award, Mr Heath took almost a decade before taking Britain into Europe.
Since then, he has been accused of having lied to his electorate of the repercussions of Britain’s membership.
In June 1971, a White Paper had been sent to every home in the UK, promising: “There is no question of Britain losing essential sovereignty.”
Then, in a television broadcast in January 1973 to mark his signing of the Treaty of Rome, Mr Heath went even further.
He said: “There are some in this country who fear that, in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty.
“These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.”
However, Mr Heath’s assertion is largely at odds with what he verifiably already knew about the EEC and its true plans.
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Edward Heath signing the Accession Treaty in 1972
According to files relating to Mr Heath’s application to join the Community, released by the Public Record Office at Kew in 2001, the former Prime Minister was fully aware of the implications to British sovereignty – long before accession into the EEC in 1973.
In June 1970, the Council of Ministers of the Community approved the plan of then Prime Minister of Luxembourg Pierre Werner, issued in his “Interim Report on the Establishment by Stages of Economic and Monetary Union”.
Less than two weeks after the report was published, on November 9, 1970, the Foreign Office produced an assessment on the so-called Werner plan.
In complete contrast with Mr Heath’s claims, civil servants claimed that if the plan was fully implemented, member states would have ended up with less autonomy than US states as the EEC’s aim was to become a political union.
The assessment said: “At the ultimate stage, economic sovereignty would to all intents and purposes disappear at the national level and the Community would itself be the master of overall economic policy.
“The degree of freedom which would then be vested in national governments might indeed be somewhat less than the autonomy enjoyed by the constituent states of the USA.”