The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s notes: The anti-EU camp need to be sure what No means

Plus: the Magna Carta’s overlooked first clause; and how I fought bravely at Waterloo

20 June 2015

9:00 AM

20 June 2015

9:00 AM

It is natural to assume that, if a majority votes No in the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, we shall then leave. It is not automatically so. After the vote, we would still be members. The government would then — morally at least — be mandated to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal. In theory, unlikely though it may currently seem, the EU could try to block this. Even assuming that it did not do so, the eventual terms of the withdrawal would not automatically be agreed by Parliament and would not necessarily correspond with the wishes of those who voted No. The context for our vote will be David Cameron’s presentation of a package secured with partners to persuade us to vote Yes. There is no negotiated package offered for those voting No. It could well be that, as so often happens in other EU countries who vote the ‘wrong’ way, there will be a second referendum. The pro-Yes government could say, ‘You, the public, voted No. We’re afraid that the following terms for withdrawal are the best we can secure. Are you sure you want them?’ It might turn out — particularly if the first result had been close — that we were not sure, after all. In short, as in the referendum on Scottish independence, there is a ‘What would actually happen?’ problem which is much more dangerous for the side which wishes to change the status quo. Alex Salmond could never answer the ‘What will happen to the pound?’ question. There will be equivalents, at least as grave, thrown in the path of the No campaign. At present, those of us who incline to getting out are the victims of a false logic, which states that because EU membership is bad, British independence is automatically better. Nothing is automatic here: every single point has to be answered, every possibility thought through.

‘Rolf Harris has written a ghastly song about his victims,’ said Justin Webb on the Today programme. I’m sure he is right. But why do we have to be told how we are supposed to react to anything said or done by a convicted sex abuser? The BBC doesn’t start an item by saying ‘King Jong-un has made a ghastly speech’ or even ‘Isis has released a ghastly video.’

Funny how, in all the excitement about the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, there has been hardly a word about its first clause. This says that ‘the English Church is to be free, and is to have its rights in whole and its liberties unharmed’. You could argue that the whole history of England turns on this struggle, on what people mean by the freedom of the church. Catholics would say it was strangled by Henry VIII. Anglicans would argue that the eventual settlement, though creating a society where church and state were far from separate, guaranteed church liberty from foreign (i.e. papal) control and protected it through Parliament. Anyway, it mattered; no other liberty was secure without this one. Otherwise, the crown or — as we would now think of it, the executive — exercised ultimate power over beliefs and ideas (and land, come to that). As the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister gathered at Runnymede this week, a Church of England clergyman was suing the Diocese of Southwell because it won’t let him keep his licence to officiate as a priest because he has married a man. If the employment tribunal finds in his favour, the first clause of Magna Carta doesn’t mean much. Most people won’t mind, perhaps, but I doubt if its first clause is one of those, like clause 33 which removes riverine fish weirs, that doesn’t matter any more.

Clause 31 is good: ‘Neither we [i.e. the King] nor our bailiffs shall take wood belonging to another person for castles, or for our other affairs, unless with the consent of him whose wood it is.’ Again, this restriction on state power has much decayed since 1215.

The other great anniversary this week is, of course, that of Waterloo. I attended a very magnificent Waterloo Dinner in the National Gallery, given by the philanthropist Michael Hintze. We were eloquently addressed by Lt-General Sir Barney White-Spunner, who has just written a book (Of Living Valour) about the battle, based on contemporary accounts by participants, and by Peter Snow of swingometer fame. Superb dioramas of the charge of the Scots Greys and the struggle for La Haye Sainte were laid out on the dining table. They were built to fire off tiny explosions, but health-and-safety regulations in the gallery prevented this. Nothing could daunt our courage, however. After a Chassagne-Montrachet (Château de le Maltroye La Dent De Chien 2007), Leoville Poyferre 2001 and Yquem 1998, I had the most distinct and vivid memories of how bravely I had fought at Waterloo.

In a few weeks, I shall have finished the second volume of my three-part biography of Margaret Thatcher. I am now at the checking and revising stage — 3,000 endnotes to be made shipshape, 2,000 quotations to be cleared with interviewees, 300,000 words to be re-imagined as if read fresh. This involves the exchange of scores of emails every day. The question arises, ‘How did enterprises of this kind ever happen before computers?’ The answer, I think, is that the sources used were much narrower than they are today. Authors were extremely dependent on where archives physically were. Interviews were a rarity. Press, radio and television records were restricted, unobtainable or nonexistent. International exchange was much harder. We live in a golden age for historical research. It won’t last. My own work depends heavily on the fact that those involved in government kept excellent, confidential, largely truthful, written records. Now, because of emails and the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), they daren’t. No. 10 Downing Street has a system, quietly introduced just before FOI, in which all emails self-destruct after three months unless ‘actively saved’. For a brief period in history, a window opened and I have been able to climb through it. Now it is closing again.


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  • Darnell Jackson

    I have never read a case for staying in the EU – outers are simply bludgeoned with fear and threats

    For me it is a simple question of sovereignty, free trade does not require political integration

    • Ποια είναι αλήθει

      How can you have sovereignty in a globalised world where decisions taken in the boardrooms of multi national businesses and banks?

      • Ivan Ewan

        You’re right, we should just give up on the idea of liberty because corporatism might be strong.

        • Ποια είναι αλήθει

          You think so? How odd! I believe we should alert our soverignity over corporatism.EU membership has little bearing on that.

          • Marvin

            So you enjoy having your life taken over by people similar to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the like. You obviously want this country of Europe run by greedy unelected donkeys.

          • Ποια είναι αλήθει

            Why do you think that?

      • Darnell Jackson

        Obviously, you wouldn’t understand!

        • Ποια είναι αλήθει

          Well wise one, why not explain?

          • van Lomborg

            But he just told you he has never read anything (!)

    • Robbydot1

      I think that’s because there isn’t one. If there is, no-one’s ever made it.

  • Damaris Tighe

    Apart from ‘ghastly’, the usual prefix the media use to signal virtue & the correct emotional response is ‘vile’. Another word which now can’t be used because it has been colonised by the Mob.

    • Mary Ann

      Which is worse vile or sleezy. At least they have given up on sleezy.

  • John Carins

    Britain’s role in securing a peaceful Europe is practically finished. The British are at their best as an independent, culturally different country. Time to rediscover our freedom and spirit for a new exciting future outside of EU political integration. We will garner far more respect from Europe and across the world if we took the bold step to vote “no”.

    • Ποια είναι αλήθει

      British history and destiny has always been entwined with that of the Continent. This will continue whether in EU or not.

      • Ivan Ewan

        Yeah, we keep having to break up their stupid attempts to take over each other’s dinky little empires. So not much has changed.

    • Marvin

      If you have read the above article, “THEY WILL NOT LET US LEAVE” How would they survive with our £60million a day for starters. Do people think that they would stop selling us 40million of their cars every year. Everything is stacked against the people with real common sense logic and the brave.

      • post_x_it

        Britain buys 40 million cars from Continental Europe each year? Surely some mistake?
        Total new car registrations in the UK were 2.5 million in 2014. Many of these were not built in Europe.

        • Marvin

          Ok an exaggeration by desperation. How about the amount of EU cars on the roads of Britain, can you count them please?

      • ButcombeMan

        Article 50 prescribes the route.

        Charles Moore is wrong

  • Seat of Mars

    I think this raises a good point and it’s food for thought for the No camp. However the same problem also applies to the Yes vote. We only know what the EU is today (a disaster), but how much more of a disaster will it be tomorrow? The uncertainty of continued membership can also be exploited.

    For instance, we do know that today our open borders mean 600k+ arrive here every year. But what will it be tomorrow? As the world becomes more unstable and as economic migrants continue to pour into Europe from Africa this number will only rise and rise. We could be looking at 1m immigrants per year very soon.

    A Yes vote does not simply mean locking in today’s situation forever. It means accepting whatever is to come with our hands tied behind our back.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      I realise it may be a case of unfamiliarity with the subtleties of the English language but when Martin Schultz, the President of the European Parliament, says Britain “belongs to the EU”, rather than “Britain belongs in the EU”, I start to worry. Fortunately he then went on the say “There are a lot of reasons to stay in the European Union because both the UK and the EU are stronger together.”, subconsciously implying that the EU would implode if the UK were to leave.

      • Karyyl

        The EU’s laws on Snus are already resulting in a much higher death rate than needed, higher than Sweden by far. Now that more than a million Brits have stopped smoking with e-cigarettes, the EU wants to send them back to smoking, all for either “a level playing field” for the failed NRT products or from echo-chamber puritanism. Allowing the EU to continue to violate its own constitution in this manner will tempt it to keep on doing so, more extremely with the passing years. IMO you’d be doing the rest of the EU a favor by bringing the matter home to the Powers (or Posers) that Be in Brussels.

        • Mary Ann

          The EU doesn’t want people to go back to smoking, it wants them to stop.

          • Karyyl

            If it wanted them to stop, it would follow the Swedish model instead of outlawing it. Sweden has by far the lowest smoking rate in the developed world, and a significantly lower death rate to go with it. But the EU Tobacco Control people STILL lobbied hard to outlaw that model.

          • Jac

            But if e-cigs allows them to not smoke cigarettes, then surely it is stupid to try to stop that, because e-cigs helps them achieve that aim. Unless they are just obtuse and contrary for the sakes of it, that is.

          • G B

            But Germany repealed its smoking ban because it was harming business.

        • G B

          The EU will continue to meddle because they can. There are no checks and balances. Give it time and they will become more draconian and more strident and the rhetoric will become harder and more inflexible. I think we all know where this is going and I feel truly sorry for the young across Europe as they will not know the freedoms we have enjoyed.

      • Mary Ann

        I wonder if you could stand up and make a speech in a foreign language and be word perfect, I am learning French from a French woman who has lived in Britain for twenty years and married an English Man, we still have to explain some of the more idiomatic expressions you get in English and she has to do the same with French. Did you know that it doesn’t rain cats and dogs in France, it rains like Cow’s piss.

        • SocratesWept

          It also rains stair rods…

        • Ivan Ewan

          Do you mean that the President of the European Parliament is so bad at his job that he can’t have a very important diplomatic speech accurately translated?

          • Hamburger


      • Hamburger

        I presume he spoke, or at least thought in German and meant in rather to. It is a common mistake that we make.

    • Mary Ann

      There are not 600,000 people coming from the EU. More than 50% of migration is from the rest of the world. There are 2 million people from the rest of the EU living in Britain and 2 million British people living in the rest of the EU.

      • Seat of Mars

        Mary Ann, the EU means that we have what are essentially open borders to the ROW via the weakened states that sit on its perimeter. Presumably you are ignorant of the crisis in the Med and the immigrants flooding in from Africa to Italy, or Turkey to Greece. I take it you are also ignorant that once within the EU these immigrants obtain an EU passport from an exhausted Italy, or a friendly Netherlands, and then fast track themselves to the UK.

        How, for instance, do you think that the UK has acquired a Somali population numbering from 250,000 to 380,000? Did they pass a points system to get here? No, they obtained passage and passports via another EU country. Namely the Netherlands.

        • Ποια είναι αλήθει

          Don’t you like Somalians?

          • Jac

            I don’t. (I left my City of birth because they had formed gangs there and were, quite frankly, war-like and threatening).

        • Marvin

          90% illegal like all the others. Why do you think that we will never have ID cards, what would they do with 5million illegals
          when the find them. Welcome to the third world.

        • ButcombeMan

          You cannot expect Mary Ann to understand.

          She has a fixed belief system.

      • Johnny Foreigner

        Please STOP. My eyes are bleeding with the repetition.

    • greggf

      Our “open borders” stem from Acts of Parliament made in 1948 et seq, which provide British citizenship for Commonwealth immigrants. These have been modified since but not repealed and are the basic motivation, coupled with Atlee’s Welfare legislation which followed, behind the UK’s massive immigration since WW2. The EU simply rides piggy-back on them under the various treaties made with Brussels since 1975.

      It seems that leaving the EU might reduce immigration were UKIP’s points plan legislated for all immigrants, but they have to get elected into government first. Anyway to protect existing arrangements for emigrants from the UK to the EU some accommodation the other way would have to remain.

      Britain’s problem with EU immigration is the Welfare entitlement it confers, which the European courts always confirm, and seems to be unique to the UK. Repealing the original Acts concerned could stop all immigration overnight but that seems unlikely.

      • Marvin

        Have you noticed the Banshees of the left like Amnesty and Liberty
        and the LGBT leftie liberals screaming “HUMAN RIGHTS”

    • Ποια είναι αλήθει

      Immigrants from Africa and Middle East will come regardless of whether we are are in EU or not.

    • Marvin

      Precisely! And the fact that the EU with it’s 50% youth unemployment and their migrants coming to prosperous Britain for work and benefits. The stupid thing is, that the liberal girlies still think that the British population at present is still 65million. And the other 12million at least.

  • Terence Hale

    The EU is in a bad way exemplified by reports that the municipality of Haarlem in Holland is banning capital transfer of foreign companies. On this basis a Swiss/ Liechtenstein biotech company has been prohibited from transferring capital for new investments. This is not good news for Dutch business.

  • In terms of what will happen if there is a no vote, flexcit answers the questions

    • WitteringsfromWitney

      I can but echo what you state. It is a constant frustration that we have to keep reading ‘words of wisdom’ from those who obviously have no wisdom. Only someone like Moore who knows not the actuality of matters ‘EU’ would attempt to pass off this rubbish as a informative contribution to the debate.

      • ButcombeMan

        For this shocking effort Moore should be fired.

    • Mary Ann

      On what page is the answers about state health care for the 4 million people who will be affected, 2 million in and 2 million out

      • David Phipps

        Eh? Please elucidate?

      • Sorry I’m not sure exactly what your point is. Are you referring to ‘acquired rights’ where nothing will change?

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    I do not think that anyone is under the illusion, that when the UK comes out of the EU the whole country will just return to as it was before the EU. It has taken many years to get into the knot that we are now in, but it will be seen as a positive move to begin untangling the situation.
    The UK will never return to ‘as it was before’, there will be repercussions of the huge mistake that the UK took in joining the membership. But the people of the UK have not changed – I am confident that if the future looks positive, then the British people will face up to the challenge in a likewise manner.

    • Clive

      But the people of the UK have not changed
      They have changed. I do not contend with your thesis but the UK is now host to a very large number of people who are only here because they are citizens of an EU country.

      One of the propaganda weapons that will be deployed – already foreseen by Nigel Farage, I believe – is that they will all be sent home.

      There is no question but that their status will have to be regularised through citizenship or visas or whatever is appropriate but no-one is suggesting they are simply sent home.

      That could affect the vote in that those who employ or who are otherwise reliant on EU people in the UK may be frightened by it.

      • Stuart Mackey

        There are ways around this, the manner of New Zealanders living in Australia and vice versa should hold some insights for the UK.

      • Mary Ann

        2 million EU citizens living in Britain, 2 million Britons living in mainland Europe. Farage has no control on whether the Britons are sent back to Blighty. A lot of them will have to come back anyway when faced with having to pay the full cost of health care and double taxation, both of which are protected against by the EU. The cost of living in Britain will also go up when either employers have to pay for private medical care for their skilled EU workers.

        • Who said employers would have to pay medical costs?

          • ButcombeMan

            Mary Ann is a regular poster of idiotic comment on EU issues.

        • ButcombeMan

          Skilled EU workers legally in the UK and paying taxes will always be entitled to NHS care.

      • ButcombeMan

        There is no plan to “send anyone home” who is here originally legally.

    • Mary Ann

      The olds haven’t changed but the young are different, they like being European, they see the advantages, the olds just look back to their childhoods when the weather was always sunny.

    • Marvin

      It is like having a over grown prostate, but we are terrified of having it confirmed and treated.

    • Grace Ironwood

      How on earth can you say the people of the UK have not changed?
      When I read these discussions I’m so struck by the lack of confidence, the timidity – people wailing “what will become of us without the EU ?”

      For goodness sakes, many countries do very well as masters of their own ship, we have had a long history of success, “belonging to” the EU is an eye-blink.

  • Clive

    You could argue that the whole history of England turns on this struggle, on what people mean by the freedom of the church.

    I doubt that there was much doubt what it meant at the time of Magna Carta. King John’s father (I wonder if he is related to King Jong Il ?), Henry II – had tried to limit the use of ecclesiastical courts wherein ‘criminous clerks’ could get scandalously light ‘penances’ for crimes which in the king’s court would have seen them severely punished

    That is why Thomas Becket died. That happened in 1170, only 45 years before Magna Carta and given the commotion it caused it would have been very fresh in the minds of the barons and clergy.

  • Corbus

    Magna Carta means nothing now. Come on it can hardly be a constitution for today, it’s thoroughly outmoded. It has no sense of a bill of rights. It was designed to recover England from the grip of a tyrant king. How would it incorporate the plans for a Brexit referendum? If a majority of voters say clearly “we want out” the MC would struggle to stamp a clear mandate given how snakish the Tory administration will be to stay in.

    • Mary Ann

      It was written to protect the Barons, most of us are the descendants of surfs. Give me the ECHR it’s up to date. And keep the EAW, I don’t want to see Britain to fill up with European Criminals. How long did the great train robbers live on the Costas because we couldn’t get them back.

  • Tony_E

    Mr Moore, I do implore you to read Dr Richard North’s ‘Flexcit’.

    The answers that the ‘No’ side seek in ‘What Happens Next’ and how to answer the question ‘Why should we leave’ are all in there.

    In years of being in favour of leaving the EU it is the only document I have read which comprehensively covers all the possible leaving scenarios and proposes a well researched plan for the future.

    It’s free, and can be read and downloaded from

    • ButcombeMan

      Mr Moore is plainly, for all his eminence, not a writer who does his research

  • Jonny Rico

    The questions have been asked and we have the answers. Please keep up. Have a read of this and then publish a follow up article.

    • Mary Ann

      400 pages, you must be joking, what if the rest of the EU doesn’t agree? who was it written by? and what protection has the ‘no’ campaign got for the two million British people living in mainland Europe, I don’t think Cameron has already secured protection for them.

      • ButcombeMan

        The rights of 70 million people override the two million who are abroad, should it come to that.

  • General_Patten

    I think that after the referendum is fixed in favour of a Yes vote the campaign of civil disobedience will begin.

  • pobjoy

    ‘I attended a very magnificent Waterloo Dinner’

    As some sort of exhibit?

  • Freddythreepwood

    The very fact that we are so far in that it could be almost impossible to get out is why we need to act now. We know how determined and to what lengths these people will go to defend their precious project – the Greek saga should be a warning to us all. In the meantime, a very important German socialist high-up in the EU parliament, President, no less, whom almost none of us has ever heard of, has the effrontery to accuse Britain of ‘hatred and lies’.

    If we vote No and our politicians try to ignore us, I will be at the front of the march on Parliament. And I wont be coming to cheer them on.

    • Castro Spendlove

      Schultz also reminded us that ‘the UK belongs to the EU’. A part of the speech the BBC failed to report on.

      • Marvin

        Remember you mentioned “Belongs” not a part of. But “BELONGS”

      • Hamburger

        His English is not as good as he thinks it is.

        • post_x_it

          He meant what he said.

          • Hamburger

            In idiomatic German we would say `England gehört zu….` which means England belongs in. However Mr Schulz made a schoolboy error and said England belongs to. His bombast and primitive English let him down.

          • post_x_it

            I don’t disagree with your linguistic analysis, but I can’t give Schulz the benefit of the doubt.

          • Hamburger

            Normally I would not either, but his stupidity knows no bounds.

  • Derek Pritchard

    We should leave to try and find our independence again, try import less, try make more goods produce more of our own foods, cut immigration, we are not Europeans, a lot of countries in Europe are allowed guns and some drug taking/growing is not illegal, in some of the Eastern block countries coming into EU they make their own guns and that knowledge is coming here. We need to get a grip and get control of our way of life. This multi culture stuff is fine on the food shelve but does not work in reality as everyone wants to come and change everything about us.

  • brian lawler


  • ButcombeMan

    Article 50

    1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

    A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European
    Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the
    European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement
    with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking
    account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.
    That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of
    the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be
    concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified
    majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the
    date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that,
    two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the
    European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned,
    unanimously decides to extend this period.

    4. For the purposes of
    paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the
    Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate
    in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions
    concerning it.

    A qualified majority shall be defined in
    accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of
    the European Union.

    5. If a State which has withdrawn from the
    Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure
    referred to in Article 49.

  • Michael North

    Enoch Powell predicted that Britain would, sooner or later, leave the Common Market (that’s all it was then) as the simple result of history and culture.
    UK into EU just won’t go.

  • ButcombeMan

    Charles Moore really should know this. Astonishing that he appears not to

    In the event of a “No” vote. The position is that the UK notifies the EU that it wishes to leave. It acts under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This allows two years for negotiation of the terms of leaving.

    This is Wikipedia but it is pretty good.