Norman Tebbit gets his second mention on the blog this month, with his latest piece on the Telegraph website, “I used to believe Britain had a lot in common with Europe. How wrong I was”. (You can read it here.)
He articulates a key question about British membership of the European Union: do we really belong? Can we share the same institutions? Do we have enough in common?
He concedes that once he thought we did, but now he thinks he was wrong: “It was not that I dislike my European colleagues – it was just that I realised that the underlying history and culture which had formed their institutions was deeply different and indeed hostile to those which had formed ours.”
I think that many historians will dispute Norman Tebbit’s assertions about the different histories of Britain and the rest of Europe, but I take a different tack. Even if the respective histories are different, that is not what matters now. What matters is whether our different countries have interests in common now and in the future, and when one looks at the rapid transformation of the world into a multi-polar system, it is undeniable that we do. Politics is more important than history.
Old-style defenders of the British unwritten constitution reject the idea that one parliament can bind its successors with the phrase “dead men shall not govern”. But in rejecting the EU on historical grounds, governing is exactly what Norman Tebbit would have them do.