Rejoice, Brexiteers, Rejoice!
Last night was a seismic, irreversible, shift in British politics. The “Europe” question which has dogged the Conservative Party for decades has been resolved. It’s not just an argument that has been won, an entire “wing” of the Party has been obliterated. It just isn’t there anymore. Letwin, Clarke, Grieve, Soubry, Soames, Gauke, Wollaston, Heseltine and many others no longer have any influence on the debate. For decades the party leader has always had to keep the Europhile/Eurosceptic wing happy – and has always been unsuccessful. Boris, with the help of Cummings, has achieved something no other Conservative Party leader has managed to do – the Tories are unified around a single EU position.
Not only is the Conservative Party unified – the rest of politics is now grappling with what to do next – which has all the potential to split those parties just as it has the Tories. Do they forget their pro-European beliefs? That’s been a key part of the Liberal Democrat offering for as long as they’ve been the Liberal Democrats – it’s in their DNA. But, like being in favour of joining the euro has been for years, it will become an argument of yesterday which no-one is interested in anymore. Almost no-one in the UK will have an appetite for another EU referendum for a generation.
What will the Labour Party do? Abandon the pro-European argument? Carry on with the argument after everyone else has finished and moved on? Can you imagine Benn, Starmer or Cooper just moving on. It is quite possible that European factionalism becomes a feature of the left, instead of the right, as they come to terms with the new reality.
All that remains is to leave the EU, in a sensible fashion, and establish a settled relationship from the outside, be it Switzerland/Canada or whatever. There will be no drama in Parliament, what can be delivered will be delivered.
There is a sense of euphoric relief. An argument that was won in 2016 has been won once again in 2019. Leaving the EU has a popular mandate from the referendum, and now a Parliamentary mandate. The in/out debate is finally over. For many people that argument started decades ago with Maastricht. We now have a Conservative Parliamentary Party without a Eurosceptic wing, and without a Europhile wing. UK politics, as it has been since Jacques Delors was on the scene 30 years ago, may never be the same again.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of what has just happened. Think about what could have happened if the Tories had achieved 50 seats less. A Jeremy Corbyn minority Government with their maelstrom of nationalisation and socialist economic policies. The Europe debate still to face another referendum, with the leave option in every real sense removed and the leave proposition therefore unresolved. Not even in the 1983 election was the difference in potential outcomes so stark.
It hasn’t always been pretty. Few would argue the last 3 years or so have been a golden era for UK politics. Something very British happened, though. We were asked a question, to which we politely gave an answer. The answer we gave has been disrespected, it’s been deliberately misinterpreted, it’s been rejected in Parliament, challenged in the courts repeatedly and people who gave the answer have been subjected to intolerable abuse. But, in the end, the British people who voted leave in 2016 demonstrated that quintessential British trait…resolve. Not just leavers, but democrats from either side. Ordinary people became determined that when the British speak, they will be heard. People who wield enormous political power were ultimately reduced to nothing when faced with a British public unmoved.
Many ordinary people from ordinary backgrounds found a temporary home in a Conservative Party which until now has been alien. Old mining communities and Tories found an unprecedented, and still unreal, common cause. It’s not that people from Leigh voting for a Conservative MP is unusual, just days ago it was unimaginable. Never in 134 year history of the constituency have they chosen such a path. It’s a relationship that might not last. Will it be just a marriage of convenience, or are we seeing an olive branch between blue collar communities and Conservatives not seen since before Thatcher? Regardless – what happened was simply unique in modern politics.
There are many Brexit heroes, in the Conservative Party, in the Brexit Party – and just ordinary members of the public determined to do their bit. It’s been very much a team effort. We can feel proud today of what has been achieved. We never gave up, and we still won’t give up until we are free, once again, to make our own way in the World as an independent nation.
Pessimists will say this is only the end of the beginning, but it really is the beginning of the end of our EU membership. We will Get Brexit Done.
Rejoice, Brexiteers, rejoice!