A few thoughts on today’s events.
First – it wasn’t working. With each year it was becoming more and more obvious that Britain and the EU wanted different things. Many (though not all) continental countries seem happy with a political union which pools their national sovereignty. There may be virtues in that, problems in it or both. But it was never a desire of the British people. Last night demonstrated that. So it is best not just for Britain but for the EU that we part ways. If we had not then we would have continued to be a hindrance and drag on our partners during the next stages of their political development.
Secondly – I hope that there can be a widespread, indeed unanimous, agreement that we wish the rest of the EU exceptionally well. The political union contains some of our closest friends and allies and it is not just in our interests, but should be our desire, to see our friends thrive, prosper and find ways through the challenges ahead. With the right political leadership they may yet find such a way. Who couldn’t look forward to continuing to work with them, trade with them and learn from them – but as separate sovereign entities rather than as unhappy cohabitees.
Thirdly – for Britain the work now begins. There are those who have campaigned for this day all their lives. But their careers only really start today. Brexit was only ever a way to get ourselves back on the right track to answering the problems our country faces, never a one-stop solution for all this country’s problems. It is now necessary for whoever forms the next government to work to get the best possible trade deals with the rest of the world, to rebuild our infrastructure, and to work to rebuild our society. They will also have to act on the clear and vocal demand of the British people not to just talk about, or discuss, large-scale immigration but to do something about it. We still have the same problems in education, welfare and borrowing as we had the day before Brexit. And I hope people from both sides of this debate and all parties will come together to address our new reality. The coming days will certainly sort out the trouble-makers from the leaders.
Fourthly – the political dimension. It seems to me that Gisela Stuart, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove all presented the best imaginable face of British politics this morning. They were measured, dignified, serious and gracious. Not least in paying tribute to the Prime Minister. The history books may wonder how David Cameron ever got himself into the situation that ended in his resignation earlier today. But whatever his other achievements, he deserves respect for acting on a promise he made to the electorate and seeing it through even to the destruction of his own career. What our country needs now is national unity, determination and common purpose. The markets will be volatile but we have an amazing slate of people – including politicians – to get us through this. Today there is every reason to feel enormous optimism about our future.