UK Politics

Brexit 'clears way' for German domination claims Heseltine

Lord Heseltine Image copyright PA

The UK is handing control of Europe's destiny to Germany by leaving the EU, Lord Heseltine has claimed.

The Tory peer, sacked as a government adviser after defying the whip over Brexit, said the Germans had lost World War Two but the UK was now giving them the "opportunity to win the peace".

"I find that quite unacceptable," he told the House Magazine.

UKIP said the comments showed Lord Heseltine was "utterly out of touch with the modern world".

"If I was German I would be deeply offended," a UKIP spokesman told the BBC.

In a wide-ranging interview, Lord Heseltine questioned how Theresa May could campaign to remain in the EU as home secretary but "within a few weeks" of becoming PM, insist "Brexit means Brexit".

The prime minister, he added, had seemed to change her mind on the issue, suggesting "this lady was for turning".

Lord Heseltine, who was deputy prime minister between 1992 and 1997, said he would continue to argue against the decision to leave the EU, believing it was against the UK's historic national interest.

'Disaster'

The 83-year old said he was "now free" to speak out after he was relieved of his five economic advisory roles after defying party managers to vote against Brexit in the House of Lords.

"If anyone is listening, I will continue to play a role in trying to avert what I perceive to be a disaster of British self-interest," he was quoted as saying.

Image caption Theresa May is no Margaret Thatcher, her former nemesis suggests

"The letters keep flowing, the invitations keep coming...They haven't kicked me out of the party yet. They kicked me out of my advisory jobs but as yet there is no suggestion I should be asked for my membership card."

Not only would Brexit alter the balance of power in Europe, he suggested that for many people of his generation, the UK's decision might be regarded as a betrayal of the country's fight against the Nazis.

"For someone like myself, it was in 1933, the year of my birth, that Hitler was democratically elected in Germany. He unleashed the most horrendous war.

"This country played a unique role in securing his defeat. So Germany lost the war. We have just handed them the opportunity to win the peace."

'Shift of focus'

He dismissed those who argue Britain's standing in the world would be unaffected by EU withdrawal, saying the UK would lose its ability to act as a bridge between both the Commonwealth and the US and Europe.

"The Americans will shift the focus of their interest to Germany."

Lord Heseltine has long been one of the most pro-European voices in his party but has rejected the Europhile tag often given to him - saying that EU membership is about enhancing the UK's national interest not giving up power and identity.

He said he had "no complaints" about the way he had been treated by the prime minister, saying they came from a different political generation and had never met, let alone discussed Europe.

Snap election

But he suggested that she had not shown the iron resolve of her predecessor Lady Thatcher, who the peer served under and later helped to depose as prime minister.

Lady Thatcher famously told the 1980 Conservative party conference, at a time of intense calls for the government to reverse its economic policies, "you turn if you want to, this lady's not for turning."

Pointing to a speech Mrs May made two months before the EU referendum - in which she called for Britain to "stand tall and lead in Europe" - Lord Heseltine said: "I don't know how someone who made that speech can, within a few weeks, say Brexit is Brexit and ask the nation to unite behind it...This lady was for turning."

Lord Heseltine also urged former Chancellor George Osborne not to rule out a return to frontline politics and disclosed that he did not vote for Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith as London Mayor because of Mr Goldsmith's pro-Brexit stance.

He also advised the prime minister to resist the "powerful" temptation to call a snap election, suggesting the result of the Richmond by-election, won by the Lib Dems, showed the "deep and bitter fury" of many voters who wanted to remain in the EU.

'Out of date'

Conservative MP David TC Davies said he respected Lord Heseltine and the generation whose world view was shaped by war but their outlook was not shared by others.

"For them the EU was not just a trading arrangement. It was a way of avoiding a third world war," he said.

"But it is an analysis that is decades out of date. We can't carry on as if we are all still living in the 1950s."

Mr Davies, who is vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British-German relations, added: "There is no chance of a war between Germany, France and Britain. We all share the same values and we are all open to each other for trade."

Responding to Lord Heseltine's comments, a UKIP spokesman said: "What an extraordinary thing to say. Has he lost his marbles?

"I never realised the purpose of Britain's membership of the EU was to stop German domination of Europe.

"For someone who is deeply pro-European to basically say he doesn't trust the German people not to misbehave shows how utterly out of touch he is with the modern world and the modern, democratic and free Germany."

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