How does an idea banished to the tundra of irrelevance make its way back to the mainstream? First, a moment of recognition – and ignition – is required. Someone must dare to make the initial leap, to retrieve the frozen thesis from its glacial prison. In the case of Brexit, it was Norman Lamont, the former chancellor of the exchequer, who dragged the idea back from the snowy wastes. Since the 1975 referendum on Common Market membership – in which British voters opted to stay in by 67% to 33% – the notion that Britain might be better off outside the European Community had lost traction, apart from on the political fringes. Yes, withdrawal remained official Labour policy for much of the 1980s; but this was one of many reasons why the party was still unelectable. So Lamont’s decision to grant the idea mainstream credibility was a significant moment – more so even than it seemed at the time. Most of the memoirs and histories cite his speech at a fringe meeting at the 1994 Conservative conference in Bournemouth, in which he railed against the tide of EU integration: “One day it may mean contemplating withdrawal. It has recently been… Read full this story
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