On Tuesday night I was asked to speak at a dinner to commemorate the partnership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I spoke as usual without notes or text, but seek to recreate some of that speech here.
Our two countries are united by our history. Together and sometimes apart, usually in concert but sometimes at odds with each other, our two nations have pursued liberty. First England established rights to a fair trial, equality under the law and habeas corpus through Magna Carta. Next we established Parliamentary control over the Crown through the Restoration settlement and the Bill of Rights. At the end of the eighteenth century America took up the pursuit of liberty, and through her War of Independence produced some of the great literature of freedom and the immortal words of the US Constitution. In tandem in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries both nations pushed on to votes for all adults, a wider range of civil liberties and more general tolerance for how citizens chose to live their lives.
As an Englishman I admire the achievements of the leaders of the US War of Independence as I do of the Parliamentarians in England who over centuries made royal power more accountable. Britain was wrong to treat the American colonists as she did.
Each generation has to fight for freedom, for there are always siren voices wanting government to take back power from people, and there are always enemies of freedom in tyrannies around the world. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher won the Cold War. Their resolve and Mr Gorbachev’s vision made possible the liberation of Eastern Europe from communism without a shot being fired.
Our generation in the UK has to win back our democratic independence from the EU.
To our guests from America I say try to explain to your President that we are fighting our war of Independence. Fortunately we don’t have to fight our EU war with muskets and cannon . We are fighting it through this referendum and we wish to have our democracy back. Our right of self government has been gravely damaged by our membership in the European Union. Those rights that we thought were inalienable and are part of the pursuit of happiness and the development of freedom have been taken away from us and given to Brussels bureaucrats. As proud inheritors of the English speaking tradition of freedom under the law and accountable government through elected assemblies we now need to resume our rights to govern ourselves in the UK.
We presently have to broker our laws with 27 other countries. We now have to send large sums of money to the European Union we don’t get back which they choose to spend. We run a kind of overseas aid system to rich countries on the continent of Europe. Why are we doing that? We would like to spend that money ourselves on our priorities. We are very conscious our defence alliance needs America and needs NATO and not the European Union which is trying to supplant it is part. It is in danger of creating a wedge between natural allies across the atlantic who have often made common cause.
To Americans who say we should stay in the EU I ask this question. If making laws by agreement with the neighbours is such a good idea, why doesn’t the USA merge with Cuba, Mexico and Canada and show us how it can be done easily and in a democratic manner? If sharing revenues and expenditures with other countries is such a good idea, why doesn’t the USA has a common budget with Cuba and Mexico?
It is time once again to defend our freedoms, restore our rights, and keep in mind that shining light of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.