Brexit grouch John Major ‘hid facts’ about Britain’s EU membership before referendum

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The former Conservative leader earlier this week launched into an anti-Brexit tirade during a speech in London. Ever since 2016, Sir John has been a staunch critic of Brexit and the process behind it. At the last general election, he went as far as to imply that Britons should vote against current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and instead give support to Remain-leaning candidates.

On Tuesday, Sir John slammed what he said was the UK’s “inflexibility” and “threats” to the EU: things that would, he claimed, make future trade “less profitable” for Britain.

He added that economically, Brexit may be “even more brutal than expected” due to the UK’s negotiating “failures”.

Political turmoil marred Sir John’s time as Prime Minister.

He was eventually uprooted by Labour’s Tony Blair who went on to dominate the country’s political landscape for a decade.

Perhaps one of the most memorable – and ironic – debacles during Sir John’s tenure was his handling of the proposals set forth in the Maastricht Treaty.

The treaty – that established what we know today as the European Union – took almost a year to be ratified.

This was as Sir John battled with Labour and Conservative eurosceptics to push it through.

At the time, Sir John attempted to justify his defence of the treaty by arguing that the European Commission – the precursor to the EU – was “getting back on the path” and that Danish demands to water down the treaty would not present a problem.

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He added that the Danes would have to “swallow” their proposed amendments.

Yet, years later, the former Prime Minister was slammed for “misleading the country” in his comments.

A week before Sir John’s speech took place, he was given a note by the Foreign Office which described Denmark’s position as “non-negotiable” and “unlikely to be acceptable as it stands to member states”.

As this news came to light, Jack Cunningham, Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman at the time, said: “The Prime Minister is misleading the country and Parliament in his statements on the Danish document.

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“His remarks lack honesty because he must know from the Foreign Office that what he is saying is not the whole truth about the Danish position and its consequences for the treaty and the agreement of the other EC members.”

The Danes wanted guaranteed safeguards in four areas: common currency, common defence, European citizenship and operations on immigration and crime.

The Maastricht Treaty, then, saw the EC develop and evolve into the EU with an initial 12 member states.

With it, the groundwork for economic and monetary union, along with a single currency and rules on inflation, debt and interest rate regulations were all introduced.

It was ratified on November 1 after much deliberation on behalf of Sir John who tried so hard to persuade ministers in Britain to support him.

The subsequent fallout with eurosceptic Tories has been widely attributed to his and the party’s bitter defeat to Mr Blair in the 1997 election.

Even his predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, spoke ill of his decision.

At the time, she said: “Our trust was not well-founded.

“We got our fingers burnt. The most silly thing to do when you get your fingers burnt is to bring forward a bigger and worse Act which is the equivalent of putting your head in the fire.”

Months later, in a speech in the House of Lords, she added: “I could never have signed this treaty.”

With such a calamity on his hands, Sir John’s criticisms of the UK’s current dealings with the EU have been widely condemned.

In light of his comments, former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan took to Twitter, and said: “Perhaps Sir John is still miffed at the country for giving him the worst vote share of any Tory leader.”

Sir John has become something of a beacon of hope for Remainers, garnering much support for the pro-EU side of the debate.

David Schneider, the London-born actor and supporter of a People’s Vote, in response to his critics, wrote on Twitter: “Brexiters, 2016: ‘Global Britain’, ‘£350m a week for the NHS’, ‘Sunlit uplands; 2020: ‘It’s gonna be hell but who gives a s**t.'”

Alastair Campbell, the spin doctor to Mr Blair at the time of Sir John’s defeat, commended him, and said: “Just read John Major’s speech. Superb and withering analysis of the mess we are in. A great country is doing such damage to itself.”

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