Ann Widdecombe interview: ‘I’m voting out of the EU because I want us to self-govern’

Ann Widdecombe, who spoke to the Reporter on Tuesday (March 22)

Ann Widdecombe, who spoke to the Reporter on Tuesday (March 22) - Credit: Archant

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe is urging people to think of the future for their children and grandchildren when they cast their vote in the EU referendum in June.

The 2010 Strictly Come Dancing contestant says it is Britain’s only chance for real freedom and an opportunity for the country to regain control of its own destiny.

Miss Widdecombe was speaking to the Reporter ahead of an after-dinner engagement at Saffron Walden Golf Club on Tuesday evening (March 22).

She said: “First of all, I’m voting out because I want us to be self-governing again.

“It’s almost an every day occurrence that our law is overturned and we have to follow directives that we wouldn’t impose on ourselves.

“This is going to be our only chance, certainly in my lifetime, to come out, and the only chance to control our own destiny. I’ve looked at all the objections, which for a time weighed quite heavily with me, but the more I’ve researched the more I’ve dismissed them.

“I was actually very concerned that if we came out and tried to trade with Europe, then they would impose, as part of the trade deal, a requirement that we still follow their legislation.

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“But when you look at the figures, we are their single biggest importer, so they are going to want to continue selling us their Mercedes and what have you. Therefore they are in the weaker position when it comes to trade deals.

“I would say to voters who are unsure to think of their children and their grandchildren, this is going to be their only chance for real freedom. Otherwise you are condemning them to ever more absorption into a foreign path, which is effectively what the EU is. We are having to do things now that simply weren’t on the table in the original discussions, we thought we were joining a common market, not a political union.”

The former Tory MP for Maidstone and the Weald retired in 2010, after choosing not to stand for re-election, and says it was only following that decision that she decided to appear on Strictly.

She said: “I wouldn’t say I’m a great fan of reality television. I would never do I’m a Celebrity or Big Brother, and I have turned them both down on numerous occasions. I actually turned down Strictly for five years in a row and it was only when I retired, and saw Jon Sargent do it, that I thought that was perhaps one I might do.”

Miss Widdecombe also appeared on the 2002 reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club, but insists that the BBC ballroom experience was one not be forgotten.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I always say, you wouldn’t keep doing that week after week if you weren’t enjoying it. I think Anton [Du Beke] discovered after the first two hours that I was never going to be a dancer and so we might as well play for entertainment, which we did.”

Ann and Anton danced in ten of the twelve rounds of the 2010 competition, before eventually bowing out, and the 68-year-old now spends much of her time writing at her Dartmoor home.

She wrote her first book, The Clematis Tree, in 2000 and has written four novels since, including the self-published The Dancing Detective, a murder mystery based around her own Strictly experiences.

Her autobiography, Strictly Ann, was also released in 2012 and Miss Widdecombe insists she did not find discrimination against women during her political career.

She said: “If you go into Westminster looking for problems because you’re a woman, you’ll find them. But if you go into Westminster expecting to be treated as the men then you will be.

“I’m tired of this culture of grievance that you must have problems if you’re a woman. This is entirely why woman haven’t made the advances they should have done. Stop whinging and get on with it.”