Prime Minister Theresa May will head to Brussels later today to urge EU leaders to back her request for a Brexit delay until June 30. However, her proposals are likely to be quickly turned down, as European Council President Donald Tusk suggested a longer delay of up to a year with conditions attached to ensure Britain does not stymie EU decision-making if it remains a member. His plan is said to be backed by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, as well as the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, and Italy, who all favour a long extension.
If forced on the UK, it would put Mrs May in a difficult position, as she previously indicated that she would resign if Brexit were delayed beyond June.
The one year-long extension is also likely infuriate eurosceptics, including Arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, meaning there could be major issues getting it past MPs.
As a precise form of Brexit is still being wrangled over in Westminster with an exit date still unclear, a newly-resurfaced speech by former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell has reemerged, which contains a chilling warning about EU membership.
When the six founding members of the EEC – France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, Britain refused to join.
owever, by the early Sixties, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan realised he had made a mistake and sought belated entry in 1961.
Leader of the Opposition Hugh Gaitskell deplored the idea of Britain entering the Community and during the Labour Party Conference in October 1962, he issued a stark warning.
Mr Gaitskell said: “We must be clear about this: it does mean, if this is the idea [a federal Europe], the end of Britain as an independent European state.
“I make no apology for repeating it.
“It means the end of a thousand years of history.
“You may say ‘let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.
“And it does mean the end of the Commonwealth.
“How can one really seriously suppose that if the mother country, the centre of the Commonwealth, is a province of Europe (which is what federation means) it could continue to exist as the mother country of a series of independent nations? It is sheer nonsense.”
One year later, thanks to French President Charles De Gaulle’s intervention, Mr Macmillan’s membership bid failed.
It was only after Georges Pompidou replaced De Gaulle that Prime Minister Edward Heath successfully negotiated entry and Britain into the EEC on January 1, 1973.
Before joining the European club, Britain enjoyed a close trading relationship with Commonwealth countries, as natural allies and partners.
However, as Mr Gaitskell predicted, when it joined, Britain cut most of its trade links with the Commonwealth nations and replaced them with trade deals with the EEC.
According to a 2016 BBC report, the EEC, through the Common Agricultural Policy, forced Britain to buy food from other member states and banned the import of cheap butter from New Zealand.
Although the debate continued about whether the EEC was entirely to blame for that, the price of butter quadrupled by 1978.