Douglas Carswell

20 APR 2016

We don't need EU membership to have European friends

Last week, I visited Świdnica – Clacton's Polish twin - for the first time. Our bilateral ties prove something important: we don't need to be in the EU to be have strong friendships in Europe.

Świdnica has a fascinating history. For most of the last 500 years, it has been under foreign rule.

In the late 14th century, it moved from Polish to Czech control. In the 16th century, the Austrian Habsburgs took over. In the 18th century, it was annexed by Prussia. It was returned to Poland at the end of World War II, only to be part of a Communist USSR satellite state. It wasn't until the fall of Communism that Świdnica was truly restored to independent Polish rule again.

Yet Świdnica is also a monument to national sovereignty. Its most famous building is the Church of the Peace, which commemorates the Peace of Westphalia. Those peace treaties created the Westphalian system of sovereign nation states that underpins international law to this day.

I went to Świdnica – courtesy of Sky News - to talk about the referendum. Because of the EU, national sovereignty is under threat. Foreign rule is reasserting itself in both Clacton and Świdnica, only this time it's bureaucrats in Brussels in charge.

The EU's erosion of national sovereignty doesn't just motivate Brexiteers in Britain. It worries Poles too. Poland has just elected a Eurosceptic government. When you think about the history of a town like Świdnica, you can understand why. The Remain campaign's pretence that everyone in Europe is passionately pro-EU except us is just not true.

Taking back control from Brussels doesn't mean cutting Britain off from Europe. It means a different relationship with Europe. Ties based on free trade and friendly cooperation, not customs union rules and common laws.

The wonderful people I met in Świdnica made it crystal clear that, whatever happens in the referendum, our friendship won't change.

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Printed by Douglas Carswell of 61 Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex