Ian Payne is Leading Britain's Conversation.
29 March 2017, 15:31
David Mellor has been pro-Europe for much of his career, but voted for Brexit. And as Article 50 is triggered, he lays into the leaders in Brussels who made the EU more of a burden than a benefit.
I voted for Brexit, but for most of my life was passionately pro-Europe - and indeed remain pro the right kind of Europe. So I feel a sadness today.
44 years ago when I was a young bar student and working for a Member of Parliament I was in the central lobby of the House of Commons the evening that Ted Heath's government voted to go into the EU.
I thought that was the greatest evening of my life because my grandfather had been gassed on the Somme in the First World War. He survived, but in a much reduced state. My father spent six years fighting in the Far East in the Second World War and I felt this was the key to a better world and at least we were going stop tensions in Europe leading to war. And of course that did happen.
But unfortunately, as the EU grew from being a trading arrangement between six countries of broadly similar backgrounds and outlooks and became this vast sprawling 28 member grouping with not much common bonds between the various countries with a Brussels bureaucracy that became ever more demanding and ever less democratic in its impulses, the EU began to become more of a burden than a benefit.
I'm sad that that has happened and I think the way ahead is very difficult.
So negotiations now begin and I liken this to rather childish behaviour - especially from the EU side - when a relationship breaks down and the ring is slung back in the other person's face. There's all kinds of moaning about how he's ruined her life and she says that he misled her and all rest of it.
But I think they've got to grow out of that. This is a serious issue.
I think a lot will turn on who does the negotiations and how much control wiser politicians have over the Brussels bureaucracy and particularly over Jean Cladue Juncker, who I regard as an entirely negative force in all of this. And rather ghastly individuals like the French negotiator Michel Barnier, who seems to sum up in one person all the horrible things that any spiteful Frenchman can think about about Britain. Who is going to control these negotiations?
The big lie at the heart of the EU's case is that they can treat us badly without consequences for them. But actually that isn't the case and the person who most knows that isn't the case is Mrs Merkel. However long she survives, we don't yet know. But when you look at the fact that BMW were boasting about selling 250,000 cars here in the UK, we're their biggest market, over 50% of the very successful car manufacturing and assembling business in the UK is owned by Germany. They've got an enormous amount to lose in a tariff war.
And yet the way that the case is being presented from Brussels is we're going to slap Britain around so no one else will want to leave after the treatment they give Britain. This is a immature but also unconvincing.
Whether or not these negotiations will succeed depends on how long that kind of view prevails.