John Evans’s diary (courtesy of his daughter Jane Welby)
”My Dad, a lifelong Tory voter and Telegraph reader, died last summer aged 93 and we have been reading through diaries we never knew existed. I found this thoughtful and prescient entry from October 1971 rather poignant:”
Thursday 28 October 1971
“Tonight our Westminster Parliament voted by a majority of 112 in favour of the motion that this country should join the European Common Market. This follows what has been called the great debate in which an unprecedented number of MPs have spoken. What a historic decision this has been and what a triumph for Parliament and the British people. I feel a glow of warmth at the thought that this will unite the people of Europe as never before after centuries of disputes, hatred and warfare. Doubtless disputes will continue and it is too much to expect that hatred and warfare will magically disappear. But for Europeans at least (and perhaps as a slow start to greater unity among all mankind) a new chapter of history is started which has in it the promise of unity and joint effort among peoples of many different languages…
Friday 29th October 1971.
Reading this in the cold light of day: what a load of cobblers it all is! I am seemingly unable to put down my feelings on paper without sounding unbearably pompous and sentimental. Nonetheless my feelings about joining the Common Market are deep ones and I believe that this was a great decision for the future.
I was discussing this subject with an acquaintance of mine (a property manager who I met on business) recently. An ex-RN officer who did his war service in small ships and submarines; farms in Sussex and a rich man I suspect. But a true Briton and a patriot. We both shared similar views – that Britain’s future, now that the Commonwealth countries have matured to independence and freedom from the UK’s apron strings, lies in Europe. Even to the extent ultimately of losing some of our independence by greater unity than is contemplated now. I mean political unity; the sense that Europe could one day become one nation. (My conversations with this acquaintance was over a lunchtime beer or two but this wasn’t the beer talking!). This could mean a diminution of our sovereignty and not many in this country, including me, are ready for that yet. The ties with the past and our history are too strong. But possibly this is the way things are shaping over the next one hundred years. We have a great deal to contribute to Europe through our democratic skills and institutions. We are, I believe, highly respected by our neighbours on the Continent and much good for all could come of such close links, provided we hasten slowly.”
With the kind permission of Jane Welby and her sisters