Brexit – now!
Stuart Millson urges our dithering political leaders to detach Britain immediately from the EU
A British army of disenchanted voters, from the unregarded towns of the old industrial North and Midlands, to the fishing villages of Cornwall and Kent, made history on the 23rd June by voting for their country to leave the European Union. As the broadcasters (David Dimbleby for the BBC, Robert Peston for ITV) turned pale in their referendum studios as the Brexit majority edged toward the 16 million-plus finishing line, it became clear that 40 years of Common Market/EEC/EU membership was approaching its end.
Despite Mr. Dimbleby informing us that this was “an advisory referendum”, and Robert Peston kindly and valiantly “trying to find something positive to say about the result”, the vote for Brexit – the in-out referendum which Prime Minister, David Cameron promised us – is a reality. However, since the victory by the Leave side and the departure of its most illustrious advocate, Boris Johnson, we have entered a period of prevarication and paralysis. Wrapped up in their own internal leadership election, the Tories have reverted to internal obsessions, briefings, political assassination and factionalism; meanwhile, Labour – clearly ignoring all the main warnings from the referendum about losing touch with their old constituents and supporters – have moved back into the world of the 1980s; of Islington and Camden thinkers, party tribalism and the general goldfish bowl of Socialist politics.
Having voted for an end to the rule of elites, the EU and the we-know-bests of the political class, the British people are now watching their great hopes and victory slowly being sucked back into the Westminster and Whitehall bubble. “Negotiations” are now planned for Brexit – but care must be paid, so we are told, to the preservation of our links with the “single market”; and even Tony Blair has suggested that a statesman needs to come forward to handle this delicate process. (Perhaps if Mr. Blair can think of a statesman, he could let any future Brexit negotiating team know his or her name…)
As time passes, as Parliament’s long summer recess takes hold and as the bad losers of the Remain side stomp their way through the streets of London waving their blue and yellow-starred flag of the EU superstate (that zone of massive youth unemployment and bureaucracy, run by people with the names Juncker and Merkel), the Leave momentum diminishes. That is why we need to urge, in the strongest possible terms, an immediate start to Brexit. There should be no reason why the starting gun – the famous “Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty” – cannot be fired now. The Prime Minister promised us that the “instruction” given to him, and to his successors, by the British people would be honoured, and there can be no clearer way for this to be achieved than to make the first formal moves in the Brexit process. Of course, for the politicians of the “managed decline” era – those who act as if they are civil servants rather than elected representatives of the people – such action is unthinkable. Yet in 1972, when the Government of Edward Heath delivered us into the clutches of the then Common Market, with no mandate for this economic and constitutional change from the British electorate, the deed was done immediately: no long-drawn-out considerations on how our existing single market with Australia, New Zealand, North America and the rest of the world would cope, and no sense at all that any time should be wasted in signing up to this “vision” of European harmony.
Today, the sticking point over our leaving the European Union appears to be the notion that we must preserve our economic tie with the continent, and that “citizens of the Union” must continue to be able to move freely through every member (and ex-member) state. With each BBC news report – when not eagerly discussing the spectre of an imminent recession – comes the set-in-stone idea that the single market must be preserved. But why should this fixate us so much, especially when China, Japan and practically everywhere else seems to have unlimited access to EU markets – China, especially, with its cheap steel imports which the all-powerful in Brussels have been unable to curtail? As to the free movement of people; is there not a difference between the normal travel and settlement of individuals in any day-to-day economy, and – what we have actually ended up with as a result of EU membership – the mass-migration and unmanageable population transfer of cheap labour?
The referendum victory on the 23rd June delivered over 17 million votes for democracy, for a re-setting of the dial in post-war politics, for a re-calibrating of everything the complacent political and business class previously stood for and relied upon. Moreover, Brexit has provided real hope and encouragement to European electorates, increasingly disillusioned with the sterility and political-correctness of an intransigent, unelected EU elite, to seek their own referenda – as a new vision of a Europe of nations comes into view.
But it seems as though the great gift and treasure from last month – that once-in-a-lifetime vote now lies on some out-of-the-way siding; undefended by its former leaders who seem to have abandoned the field, and at the mercy of the appeasers, worm-tongues (to use a Tolkien term) and Remainers of the beaten pro-EU side. The Brexit movement must regain the initiative – and this means the convening, perhaps, of a Brexit victory rally, not in London, but instead in York or Doncaster, or even in Wales, the nation which voted to regain the identity and independence of the whole Kingdom. It also means demanding as soon as possible that the process for which we voted – leaving the EU – commences at the earliest opportunity. Already there are signs that the continental Europeans are ahead of us, as during the last meeting of the European Council, Britain (thank goodness) found itself excluded from the greater part of the day’s proceedings. We must capitalise on their eagerness for us to go: the British people and Leave leaders must find their voice again and the message must be clear: Brexit – now.
Stuart Millson is QR’s classical music editor