We are now eight months on from the vote which has led to the much talked about Brexit. I think it would be fair to say that the result turned the world of politics and the country in general upside down. The shock was palpable and the landscape of our nation changed forever. For better or for worse we face a new and some would argue uncertain future (it is of course hard to talk about the future without being uncertain).
I thought this was a good moment to take stock of where we are and look at some of the key issues which for me are critical in helping secure a prosperous future.
I freely admit I was not a Brexiteer, I think the appropriate description for my position was a Remainer all be it a reluctant one. Reluctant in the sense that I am no fan of the Brussels bureaucracy and its fondness for dictates. For me any organisation so bloated with Civil Servants all looking for something constructive to do is a malignant entity. However as a ‘conservative’ with a small as well as a capital ‘C’ I much prefer evolution to revolution. I would have much preferred to remain and work with our fellow European colleagues to drive change especially as the decision to leave will have a material impact on so many people.
That said (and with a heavy heart) I feel duty bound to respect the democratic will of the people of this country and we must now prepare ourselves for leaving the EU and making the best possible job of it.
Clearly there will be much to thrash out to enable clarity for business and citizens alike and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. However the reason why I feel compelled to speak out now is a plea firstly to all the Governments involved in this process to make a priority of the rights, needs and aspirations of ordinary people who have been caught up in this turmoil. The uncertainty facing them is immense and it is the duty of Government and Politicians to protect them and ensure we do not trigger any large scale movement of people, forced or voluntary.
Jobs will be at risk, children’s school places are impacted, healthcare needs, indeed all the aspects of ordinary lives. We must provide certainty and assurance as a matter of urgency. It was very encouraging to see our Prime Minister pushing this issue hard and it is to her credit that she seems to understand the impact on ordinary people. Equally it is to the discredit (some would say shame) of other EU leaders who simply refuse to address the issue until a totally arbitrary point in time ie the official triggering of the so called Article 50. For me this overly dogmatic approach to the plight of real people typifies what has gone wrong with the EU. As Disraeli said “Power has only one duty – to secure the social welfare of the people”. It is as true now as it was then.
Here in the UK we are still a divided country on the subject of Brexit. Arguments still abound as to the type, shape and flavour of any Brexit. I believe now is not the time to accentuate division, it is a time to work towards unity. Irrespective of whether you were a Brexiteer or a Remainer, – even these descriptions are significant simplifications of the multitude of positions many in both camps held. I urge all to come together and work through the difficult times ahead with a view to the concerns and interests of everyone. This is of course easy to say and difficult to achieve. It should however in my view be kept as the guiding principle in all our debates going forward.
If we keep the individual and families at the centre of the stage in the post Brexit world, taking full regard of ordinary citizens interests, ambitions, fears and concerns we will come through this uncertain period stronger and in better shape. If we get stuck in dogma and theory unable to grasp the consequences for ordinary people we will not do well and history will judge us as having failed this historic challenge.