Richard North, 20/08/2021  

In this complete change of pace, I mark the publication of the fourth edition of our book, The Great Deception (TGD), this version bearing the sub-title "The True Story of Britain and the European Union".

Since Booker and I first wrote this, back in 2003, it has taken on the role of the Eurosceptics' bible, with the third edition helping to fuel the debate during the 2016 referendum.

Despite being almost completely ignored by the legacy media – and the "above the line" pundits" – it has sold well over 50,000 copies to date, and even before this new edition, was still selling in comfortable numbers. Early indications suggest that sales are doing extremely well.

Producing this new version though, has been a challenge, not least because of the sad demise of my working partner, Christopher Booker, who in previous versions "held the pen". I did much (but not all) of the research, and produced lengthy briefs, from which Booker would work, distilling the material down to a workable length – one of his great strengths as a newspaper columnist.

Before I even got to start on TGD, though, I'd already been hard at work, finishing Booker's uncompleted work on Groupthink, following which the publishers asked me to add a new chapter on Covid-19 to one of our other jointly-written books, Scared to Death.

It was May last year, therefore, that I got stuck into the project Booker and I had talked many times about undertaking – bringing the book up-to-date, from 2005 where we had left it in the third edition, to the point when we finally left the EU. Sadly, Booker passed away in July 2019 – but at least he had seen the ab outcome of the referendum for which he had devoted many years of his life.

It fell to me, therefore, as the survivor of a working partnership that reached back to 1992, to finish the story, made all the more difficult by my publisher's insistence that I should not add to the word count, adding a further 15 years-worth of narrative without making the book any longer.

With the availability of previously unseen archive material covering the period about which we had already written – and with the need to cover some issues which we had barely (or not at all) touched – I was already going to find it difficult to bring the book in at the required length, even without bringing it up-to-date.

In the new period, I had to cover some of the most tumultuous years of our relationship with the EU, encompassing not only the referendum on 23 June 2016 and the campaign which preceded it, but also the subsequent years devoted first to negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement and then the "future relationship" with the EU, culminating in the Christmas Eve deal labelled the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

There were times, therefore, during the 10-month writing phase that I doubted the job could even be done. But, with judicious editing and the stern discipline exercised by my publisher, I managed to come in under the wire, at just over 270,000 words of text. The completed book runs to 656 pages. I estimate that about a third of the book is completely new writing.

Now, as a story, The Great Deception is complete. It covers for the first time the most audacious political project of modern times, from its intellectual beginnings in the 1920s, when the blueprint for the European Union was first conceived by a British civil servant, right up to the point when the UK resumed its path at as an independent sovereign nation after 47 years of membership of the European project in its various guises.

When we wrote the original edition, our aim was unashamedly to produce a Eurosceptic manual, better to inform those who were seeking to leave the EU of the nature of the construct against they were campaigning.

Now that we have left, where the process of our leaving could hardly have been worse managed and the problems attendant on our newly-restored status have yet to be resolved, there are siren voices calling for us to rejoin. Possibly, as our difficulties multiply, those voices will intensify.

The purpose of this book, therefore, has subtly changed. While the aim is still to write a proper history of the European "project", right up to the point of the UK's full departure, the purpose is graphically to recount the "nature of beast" and Britain's experience of it, in order to warn current and future generations against seeking to repeat the experience.

To that extent, the purpose of this new edition is to erect a "fence" around a metaphorical "Chernobyl", to mark a point beyond which we as a nation should never pass.

With that, this is not and never has been an "insider's" book. We cannot tell you what Jean Monnet had for breakfast on the morning of 9 May 1950 when his Schuman Plan was about to be announced, and nor do we trouble our readers with the pallor of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer just before he met the prime minister on 15 March 2017.

Rather, this book is the product of meticulous research, drawing on thousands of books, documents, academic papers and other sources, augmented by interviews and tempered by long personal experience of EU issues, working with many of the personalities who feature in the later part of the story.

Most crucially though, it is the product of informed analysis and synthesis, filtering out extraneous material to get to the essence of over a hundred years of history, in a way that I hope is accessible, readable and informative.

I believe that our work (Booker and I in the first three editions and my solo efforts in this current edition) reveals a picture of the story so radically different from any previous accounts – even up-to-date with the account of the referendum campaign - that anyone remotely concerned with this hugely important subject might ?nd it both startling and illuminating.

Certainly, when our ?rst edition appeared, that view was con?rmed by the private responses of a number of well-informed readers. These ranged from historians and respected commentators to a retired senior diplomat who had been intimately involved in some of the episodes we described.

They commended the book for having reconstructed the story in a way which at last made sense of so much that had previously been confusing, and brought to light so much that had remained previously hidden.

The public response to the first and successive editions could not have provided a greater contrast. Not a single national newspaper found space to review them. Only the Spectator (ed. Boris Johnson) published a spectacularly jaundiced "non-review" of the first edition, by the author of an earlier book on the subject whose views he believed we had failed to treat with suf?cient respect.

This silence was broken months later by the columnist Peter Hitchens who, in the Mail on Sunday, expressed surprise at how comprehensively the book had been ignored, and urged that it should be read by "every MP, every senior civil servant, every journalist with any claim to understanding the current state of the country".

I have every reason to believe that this new edition will be similarly ignored by the legacy media – although the Mail on Sunday has shown some interest in it. The "great and the good" will most certainly continue to ignore it as the story told – right up to David Cameron's "reform" negotiations and the conduct of the 2016 referendum campaign – is so radically different from the "mainstream".

Of Cameron's negotiations leading to the 2016 referendum, readers will find that, on re-evaluation of the evidence, I argue that they were doomed from the start. That the Leave vote would win was a foregone conclusion. In this, the outcome is in many ways fitting – our book chillingly shows how "Europe" is a game in which Britain's politicians were consistently outplayed in a game the rules of which they never understood.

I thus end the book by evaluating the post-referendum negotiations and asking whether our new, post-Brexit world is the end of an episode or just a new beginning. However, I do conclude that, for the moment, even despite the extraordinary mess which has been made of the Brexit process, this particular great deception has come to an end.

Even if it is only the beginning of the next one, that is a start.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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