Soames Speaks on Europe

The MP for Mid Sussex, Sir Nicholas Soames, has sent me this extract from Hansard, detailing a speech he made very recently in the debate about membership of the European Union:-

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): Let me first
congratuiate the right hon. Member for Leeds Central
(Hilary Benn) and my right hon. Friend the Foreign
Secretary on their speeches. I warmly congratulate the
Prime Minister and his negotiating team on their
courage and tenacity. I include especially my right hon.
Friend the Minister for Europe, who had to bear much of
the heat and burden of the day, This was a remarkable
achievement, and I wish it well. As the right hon.
Member for Leeds Central said, it is now for the
British people to have their say, and have their say they

This is the 70th anniversary year of Churchill’s speech
on the cause of a united Europe at Zurich on 19 September
1946,lt has always struck me as ironic that that speech
has been claimed by both sides of the European argument
as being some sort of holy grall. I am daily on the
receiving end of some vile emails and what not from
people telling me that I am a traitor to my grandfather’s

Mr Baker: I am most grateful to my right hon. friend
for giving way. May I say that although I disagree with
him profoundly on this issue, I regard him with the
utmost respect? He has held these views for a very long
time with complete sincerity, and people disgrace themselves
by their insults.

Sir Nicholas Soames: I am very grateful to my hon.
Of course, Churchill’s was a speech of great prescience
and great vision. It was also a speech of the most
profound analysis. Unlike most other hon. Members, I
would like to reflect at a littie more distance on Britain’s
European Affairs experience of the European Union and, in particular,
my party’s long-standing commitment to the European

It is worth the House reflecting for a moment, Madam
Deputy Speaker, on the tragedy of what Europe must
have looked like in 1945. It is only the winking of an eye
in terms of time and history. It was only 71 years ago
that the Germans surrendered to the allies and signed
the instrument of surrender. It was only 70 years ago
that the Russians drew down the iron curtain on a
broken and suffering eastern Europe. Behind that iine,
in the wicked grip of a ruthless regime, lay all the great
capitals and states of eastern Europe-Warsaw, Prague,
Berlin, Bucharest and Sofia.

Most of the rest of continental Europe lay shattered
and broken, after six years of war, for the second time in
25 vears. There remained a vast mass of bewildered
human beings, who gazed forlornly at the wreckage of
their homes, their nations, their lives, their families,
their possessions and everything that they loved. But
from that awful scene of desolation, sadness, ruin and
despair a little over 70 years ago, something truly remarkable
has been achieved, which has brought freedom, security
and prosperity way beyond the dreams that anyone
alive at the time could ever have contemplated.

Not only have the sovereign states of Europe risen,
phoenix-like, from the ashes of two world wars, but
they have created of their own free will a European
Union of 28 members comprising the biggest and most
powerful single market in the world-one of 500 million
people-in which we travel with our fellow Europeans
in prosperity and peace in an era of constantly expanding
co-operation, prosperity, security, safety and freedom.

When the cold war ended and the Berlin wall came
down on that glorious, cold 9 November 1989, the
Warsaw pact collapsed into dust without a shot being
fired. Most of the eastern European countries joined
the European Union, and most of them also joined
NATO. Indeed, only six countries that are members of
the European Union are not members of NATO.
Why did they join? Because the Europe and the
NATO that they joined were and are prosperous, secure
and free, and they wanted as soon as they could to find
shelter in the institutions that had benefited from a
period of peace, stability, freedom and security
unprecedented in 1,000 years of European history. They
hoped that it would protect them from a still predatory
Russia. There is no argument but that the EU was
absolutely central to those developments, and it is a
very great credit to our country that we should have
played such a leading role in seeing all this through.

The European Union has achieved a very great deal,
but it cannot and it must not allow itself any self congratulation
in these very difficult times, Although
we can see that the ice has melted on the landscape of
the second half of the iast century, and that power in all
its forms has shifted and is shifting rapidly and
unpredictably, we know how inadequately most of the
institutions of the European Union have coped. This .
must be remedied.

As we look across Europe at all the achievements it
has to its name, the pervasive mood is one of insecurity,
lack of confidence and lack of optimism. Those
characteristics are not found only in Europe. The troubies
of Governments everywhere speak to the anxieties of their electorates and, sadly, to the mistrust in their politicians, their institutions and their leaders. The public
across Europe know only too well that the world of easy
answers, instant solutions and deciaratory statements is
a construct of fools, politicians and the media. As
power shifts so rapidly and unpredictably, one might
almost believe that we are today at the start of a new

Nowhere are these difficulties, insecurities and lack
of understanding more obvious than in this country of
ours. I am always wary of trying to work out what
Churchill might have thought today, because I think it
is an impertinence to do so. The one thing I absolutely
know is that as the world has grown bigger for Britain,
the opportunities greater, the chances more glittering
for our corrmerce and our people, so the people who
practise politics and government in this country, and
especially those who write about it, have a sadly cramped
and limited view of Europe and the rest of the world.

In this campaign, one of our most important tasks-all
of us, whatever side we are on-is to remind our fellow
citizens that we share a region, a climate, much of our
history and demography, our economic space and our
culture with the countries of the European Union,
something that Churchill pointed out very clearly in his
Zurich speech. Our business corporations, our leisure
time, our intellectual and cultural life are a1l intertwined
with Europe’s. We face shared problems in endless
comparable ways. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion
(Caroline Lucas) rightly mentioned all the environmental
issues on which Europe has been extremely effective.

However, our political and deeply shallow media do
not engage with any of that, or, as the right hon.
Member for Leeds Central pointed out, with the interests vital
to us-of our European partners, allies and friends.
At least, that was the position until very recently. Now
the media have finally woken up, like the great, slack
monster they ale, to the awesome prospect of combat,
newspaper sales and competition as each side of the
argument tries to persuade our fellow citizens of the
right way.

I rejoice at the Prime Minister’s extraordinary
achievement in Brussels, and I commit myself to making
the same case to the best of my ability whenever I have
an opportunity to do so. I am struck by the scale of
support for the European Union from British commerce
and businesses both large and small, and especially-in
an important letteq pubiished in Tlte Daily Telegraph
yesterday-from four former Chiefs of the Defence
Staff and other former service chiefs, who drew attention
to the great importance of the EU in the security

I believe that the case to remain is overwhelming on
all fronts, but there is no point in pretending that the
European Union does not face many major challenges
that it has to find a better and more effective way of
resolving. The refugee crisis, for example, has made the
EU look deeply ineffective and purely reactive. It is
clear that Schengen cannot survive without the most
dramatic reform, and that the external borders of Europe
need to be strengthened rapidly. None of us can feel
happy that the European Union, which has brought
such great stability to much of the European continent,
now appears to be weak and uncertain. Its unpopularity
matters. and it is damaging.

My hope is that our Government will seize the moment,
and that, having rediscovered the great value of extremely
energetic and skilled diplomacy, the Prime Minister, the
Foreign Secretary, the Minister for Europe and others
will really push ahead in the EU to drive-along with
like-minded colleagues and friends-the big reforms
that Europe must swallow. They will find willing friends
who want to do the same. There is a huge agenda to
which Britain can play, and in which it will play a
leading role. On economic reform, on security, on energy,
on defence and on foreign policy, there are practical and
radical steps thzrt can be taken.

May I finally indulge myself, Madam Deputy Speaker,
by recalling the end of Churchill’s great speech to the
Congress of Europe in The Hague in 1948, remembering
that the founding fathers of Europe, with a noble vision,
built this astonishing edifice on firm and very lasting
foundations? This is what Churchill said at that conference:
‘A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here this
afternoon in this Congress of a Europe striving to be reborn. If
we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and
small disputes, il we fail in clarity of view or courage in action, a
priceless occasion may be cast away lor ever. But if we all pull
together and pool the luck and the comradeship-and we shall
need all the comradeship and not a little luck…and firmly grasp
the largel hopes of humanity, then it may be that we shall move
into a happier sunlit age, when all the little children who are now
growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the
victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country
over another in the bloody turmoil of…war, but the heirs of all
the treasures ol the past and the masters ol all the science, the
abundance and the glories of the fluture.”

Those of us who fight the good fight to remain will
do so with confidence, but also with humility and
profound respect for those who hold long-standing
views that are very different lrom ours, and in the sure
knowledge that this issue is about the fundamental
place in the world, for a generation to come, of a
confident, open, engaged, pro-European Great Britain.

Faites courage!

Several hon. Members rose-
Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order.
Before I call the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex
Salmond), who is, of course, not subject to a time limit,
I must warn Members that Back-Bench speeches will be
limited to nine minutes.
1.45 pm
Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): I am delighted to
follow the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas
Soames). I have not always found myself in such agreement
with him over the years for which we have been in this
place-if I remember correctiy, we were elected on the
same day back in 1987-but I am delighted to follow
him today, not just because we are going to be on the
same side in this referendum campaign, which may be
another first, but because of the nature of the argument
that he pursued in his speech.

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