Brexit reflections from Dinah Glover

Brexit reflections from Dinah Glover

Here is the latest in our series reflecting on the Brexit process with regular BrexitCentral authors and others who have played an important role in our journey out of the European Union. Here are the answers to our questions from Dinah Glover, who chairs London East Area Conservatives.

BC: When did you first come to the view that the UK would be better off out of the EU? Did you ever think that the EU could be reformed from within to make membership tolerable for the UK? Tell us how your views developed over time on the issue.

I have been a Eurosceptic since the 1980s when, reading in further depth about the EEC as it was then, I soon realised that the endgame was centralisation and the reduction of the power of the nation state. John Major’s Government was overshadowed by the Maastricht Treaty and the ERM crisis, which culminated in Black (Golden) Wednesday. Black Wednesday was a disaster for the Conservative Government since it demonstrated clearly that the Government was prepared to sacrifice the financial wellbeing of its citizens at the altar of European integration. I was at the time vehemently against ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, despite the opt-outs from the Euro and the Social Chapter.

The direction of travel was clear and it had already caused us a financial crisis. I felt our future should not be political or monetary integration. The Maastricht rebels were heroes. I, as many, hoped that either at a future treaty change or an event would push us towards becoming more semi-detached from the EU. Maastricht as a project had nearly failed; perhaps the next treaty would fail and the European project would become about trade only, although we all knew in reality the sub-text was always integration.

In the end, David Cameron started a cataclysmic change, albeit unintended by him. The moment his negotiations started it seemed to me they were doomed or set up to fail – he wasn’t asking for enough and the EU weren’t prepared to give anything substantial. I waited until the negotiations were pretty well concluded before joining the ‘Leave’ camp since I felt this only fair to Cameron who had, after all, just won a (small) overall majority. We had to be seen to give the negotiations a chance. We did, they were just fiddling at the edges, so the choice was clear.

BC: What was your most memorable moment during the referendum campaign?

On the eve of poll on a commuter route in Bow, London E3, as I was unloading the car with Vote Leave leaflets and paraphernalia, we had a busload of people giving us the thumbs up, cars tooting at us and stopping us for posters. We were literally stopped from starting our session by the overwhelming positive support. I didn’t dare to believe it was the sign of something, but it was.

BC: Who was the most unlikely ally you campaigned with or shared a platform with during the referendum? Did you strike up any unexpected new friendships across traditional political divides?

I think many would consider I was the unlikely ally since in my early days in the Young Conservatives I was not on the ‘right’ slate! It was interesting that the Tower Hamlets Vote Leave team’s most active members were in the main not political activists and many worked at the heart of City finance and as such could never be caught on camera or on social media campaigning for Vote Leave for fear of putting their jobs in jeopardy.

BC: Where were you on referendum night? How did it feel?

Prior to the count I was apprehensive as Conservatives in Tower Hamlets had been active on both sides of the debate and I felt uncomfortable since we could be at a count on opposing sides. It turned out that it was in fact pretty well Labour holding up the Remain side! In Tower Hamlets we’re used to appalling counts, but this one was the most bad-tempered I’d been to, with some paid Counting Agents openly hostile to the Leave side while, on the other hand, another group of young lads who had done their research and knew what Leave had to poll in each area to win were watching the TV and cheering with us once their duties were done! We then took our team back to our house to drink through to David Cameron’s resignation at 8am on 24th June. I was ecstatic, if slightly worried, but I remember saying they (the establishment) will never let us do it. Well, they very nearly didn’t!

BC: Did you think then that it would take as long as it has for Brexit to actually happen?

I thought it would be difficult. Our path was, after all, virgin territory. However, it proved to be worse than difficult. We couldn’t have foreseen the terrible 2017 General Election which re-invigorated the Remain side.

BC: Were there any moments in these last few years since the referendum when you thought the prize could yet be snatched from us?

Constantly! But mainly in the latter days of Theresa May’s premiership, which is why I understand the reason that various members of the ERG did vote for her terrible Withdrawal Agreement on the third occasion. We feared the alternative was no Brexit at all. It is a fact that Chequers was a total disaster and sell-out. It was a stitch-up by Mrs May and her advisors who were working in opposition to the Brexit-supporting members of the Cabinet. Mrs May had changed tack from her Lancaster House position and was now aiming for regulatory alignment, with the UK coming under the orbit of the ECJ in most areas. This was a serious betrayal.

I thought the resignations of the Brexit Secretary and the Foreign Secretary would lead to a change of tack. Sadly, Mrs May was adamant. As I said: ‘she was no longer the solution to the problem, but in fact the block to Brexit’, which was picked up by The Spectator as a quote of the day! She did indeed see it as a problem. As the months after Chequers went by, I could not sit idly by and do nothing, letting the opportunity of Brexit slip away and – in fact more importantly – leaving large swathes of the British people’s belief in democracy shattered.

It was time for the voluntary party to speak. It is telling that so many Association Chairmen supported our motions to keep the Lancaster House spirit alive and, most tellingly, the final one to put forward a motion of ‘no confidence’ in her leadership. Mrs May resigned before this motion was put to the Conservative Party National Convention, the governing body of the voluntary party. Looking at what Boris Johnson has achieved since August 2019, when so many people told him it was impossible, it shows how right we all were to fight for a better Brexit. All those brave Chairmen who took a stand are Brexit heroes too.

BC: Do you think the British electoral landscape will return to type once Brexit has been delivered? Or will Brexit have caused a lasting change to the political map of Britain?

Had the path to Brexit been smoother, I think it would have returned to type; but now the Labour Party has been shown to be on a different thought process to many of their supporters, it has shown a schism at the heart of Labour between the metropolitan elite and the working classes which have been ignored. If Brexit and the policies of the Boris Johnson Government re-energise areas previously left behind, the political landscape could be changed for a generation.

BC: What changes do you want/hope to see made now that the UK has taken back control? Can you summarise your vision for Brexit Britain?

The key change I would like to see is that we become a beacon for innovative industry by being able to bring in radical, but safe and risk-assessed regulation without the burden of the over-cautious EU rules, which will hopefully mean we can lead the world in some specialist technical industries. I look forward to us re-balancing our trade with nations outside the EU, being able to help countries in Africa out of poverty with our trade policy, welcoming the brightest and the best from around the world and being more than just a European nation, but a nation which leads the way, working with other nation states across the globe.

BC: Do you have any special plans for 1st February, our first day outside the EU?

Every holiday since June 2016 I have hoped to return to our country via a ‘UK nationals only’ channel. It’s only when that happens I will truly believe we have left the EU. On the 1st February I really should get the Eurostar to the EU for the sake of it, but I plan to be far too worse for wear.

BC: Do you have a favourite photo of yourself from the Brexit process? If so, please share it and give us the context for it.

As above, a street stall in Bow, London E3.