Derek Bennett enjoying Corfu 1970.
Most of us will have memories of our very first passport, some more distant than others. My first British passport was purchased on the basis of a possible holiday to Spain with some pals in 1968, which sadly did not come about.
In that original dark blue, hard cover real British passport, the old black and white photo was of a fresh faced young man smartly dressed in a collar and tie, and when you looked at the back pages of the passport, unlike those of most of my chums which had entry stamps for several countries, mine was pristine with not a single stamp.
In 1970, three years before Britain unfortunately joined the then Common Market, a group of friends planned a trip across the Continent and were going to drive down to Brindisi in Italy where they were to take the ferry across to Corfu. My Pal Roger and I had decided to hitch hike to Brindisi and take the ferry too and eventually meet up with the others in Corfu.
So, early one morning in June 1970 I left my Walsall home and the great adventure began and as we sailed out of Dover en-route to Zeebrugge, I took my first look of the white cliffs of Dover from the see as we set off on my very first trip abroad. One of the things I was looking forward to was seeing my virgin passport fill up with stamps as we crossed borders on our journey across the Continent.
A few hours later as we stepped of the ferry I eagerly handed over my passport and to my dismay there was no stamp forthcoming, just a cursory glance from the border guard and we were on our way. Our first lift was with a Flemish lorry driver who was on his way to Germany, which was great news as this took us a good part of our way. At the border the driver told us where to go for passport control, but before we got there a German policeman stopped us and asked us where we were going and asked how much money we had with us. Once he knew we weren’t vagrants he sent us on our way with no stamp in my still pristine passport.
The next morning, bright and early we were close to the German Swiss border and a painter and decorator picked us up and with our rucksacks stored in the back of his estate car with his pots of paint and brushes, we set of at breakneck speed towards the border. As we got closer I could see the armed border guards and there was no sign of this chap slowing down or stopping. As I began to worry that the armed guards would shoot us as we hurtled through without stopping, the decorator gave a friendly toot on his horn and a wave which was returned by the border guards and in a flash we were in Switzerland - minus another stamp on my immaculate passport.
At the end of this trip we arrived in Corfu with my still pristine passport and no one had really bothered about us crossing several borders, it was the same on the return journey home about three weeks later.
The reason I tell this tale of my first venture beyond the shores of my homeland is that of late one of the arguments the pro-EU lobby have come up with is that if the UK left the EU free and easy passage across Europe would cease. This does nothing other than to highlight the desperation to which these EU propagandists have reached. As growing numbers of people are beginning to realise there are no benefits to EU membership and the pro-EU lobby have been losing every argument in the EU’s favour one by one, this silliness regarding the restriction of free movement if we quit the EU is about all they have left. However, the fact that many others, and myself, were able to travel across Europe with such ease before we joined the EU only goes to prove the point that if we return to the status of a free nation once again as non-EU members, we will simply return to the situation we had before we joined and free and easy passage across the Continent will continue.
We still have to take our passports with us when we travel across the EU now, the border guards are just the same when they give our documents a cursory glance and little will change. Leaving the EU will not stop the hoards of British holiday makers flocking to the Spanish Costas with their cash, which the Spanish, Greek and Italian hoteliers and other tourist businesses really need, nor will it stop Continental visitors from visiting us where we will make them most welcome too. But what it will stop is the large influx of people who have no work to come to and expect to receive generous benefits as a British Government, free of the EU, will be able to control who lives in the UK – which will be those who have employment awaiting them and can bring skills needed in the UK. Our borders will once again be our own, as they were in the days of my virgin passport before we were drawn into the EU which is now the cause of so many problems all across the Continent.