At last, a pos­i­tive and bold vi­sion for Brexit

The Daily Telegraph - - Letters To The Editor -

The long ar­ti­cle that Boris John­son to­day writes for the Tele­graph is a vi­tal in­ter­ven­tion in the sin­gle great­est po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge fac­ing this coun­try. The man­ner of our de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union, and the di­rec­tion we take af­ter­wards, will do more to shape this na­tion than any­thing since the Sec­ond World War. In the de­tail of Brexit po­si­tion pa­pers, the minu­tiae of ob­scure par­lia­men­tary pro­to­cols and the for­est of acronyms, from ECJ to Efta, it is some­times easy to lose sight of this sim­ple fact: we Bri­tons are em­bark­ing on a pro­found new chap­ter of our is­land story. All of us – how­ever we voted – have an in­ter­est in com­ing to­gether to se­cure the en­hanced pros­per­ity and sovereignty that is most cer­tainly on of­fer.

So when Mr John­son sets out, in his uniquely en­gag­ing style, a bold, op­ti­mistic, uni­fy­ing vi­sion for the fu­ture of this coun­try, he is also spell­ing out ideas that we need to hear. De­spite the hard-core con­stel­la­tion of wreck­ers or­bit­ing Tony Blair, the vast ma­jor­ity of Bri­tons ei­ther sup­port or have made their peace with the ref­er­en­dum re­sult. The Bri­tish peo­ple, ever prag­matic and re­spect­ful of democ­racy, do not har­bour some in­sur­gent ap­petite to over­turn the supremacy of the bal­lot box. In­stead, as the For­eign Sec­re­tary points out, there is only an in­creas­ing im­pa­tience with the in­er­tia that now grips parts of a gov­ern­ment en­trusted with this most vi­tal of tasks. “Over­whelm­ingly,” he writes, “I find that Leavers and Re­main­ers are com­ing to­gether… and urg­ing us to get on and do it, and do a deal that is in the in­ter­ests of both sides of the Chan­nel.”

There are three key ob­ser­va­tions here. The first is that Bri­tain is not riven by some seis­mic crevasse – that on the con­trary, a com­ing-to­gether is in ev­i­dence, one only made eas­ier this week by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s president, Jean­claude Juncker, set­ting out the EU’S full su­per­state ambitions. The sec­ond is that, de­spite these ambitions, we do not wish those on the Con­ti­nent ill. Far from it. We were fed up of be­ing the re­cal­ci­trant pas­sen­gers al­ways reach­ing for the hand­brake when the driv­ers in Brus­sels wanted to put their foot down. Just be­cause we have stepped out of the EU ve­hi­cle, that does not mean we now want it to crash. We wish our EU al­lies and friends well, even if we worry that the course they are steer­ing may be reck­less.

But it is the third is­sue that, from our own stand­point, is most sig­nif­i­cant. This is that a de­gree of bold­ness of our own is now re­quired. We must in­deed “get on and do it”. And it is here that an un­avoid­able po­lit­i­cal truth emerges. For the only way of plot­ting a path through the in­nu­mer­able pos­si­bil­i­ties and dis­trac­tions of Brexit is to have some clear idea of where we want to end up. With­out a more-than-man­age­rial sense of a de­sired des­tiny for this land, there is sim­ply no hope of ful­fill­ing Brexit’s great po­ten­tial. In­deed, the more that we are un­cer­tain, the more the cer­tainty of Mon­sieur Barnier and his team will fill the vac­uum. The more that we fail to es­tab­lish a clear, pos­i­tive nar­ra­tive, the more that in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses may lose heart. The more that we are re­ac­tive, fail­ing to elab­o­rate the ideas that will hence­forth de­fine us, the more that we will be dic­tated to, drift­ing on the tide of his­tory at the very mo­ment when mil­lions thought we had seized the tiller to chart our own course.

Again and again Mr John­son spells out just such ideas. Here they are: on dereg­u­la­tion, in­vest­ment, skills, im­mi­gra­tion, science and tech­nol­ogy, tax­a­tion and trade – a tor­rent of en­er­getic and co­her­ent think­ing, a wel­come blast to start us from our stu­por. Only the de­ter­minedly bit­ter could fail to en­thuse.

Here is a fu­ture coun­try where reg­u­la­tion and tax­a­tion are kept to a min­i­mum, bet­ter to en­cour­age en­trepreneuri­al­ism and com­pe­ti­tion. Here is a fu­ture coun­try that is unashamedly pro-busi­ness, but de­mands in re­turn that busi­ness in­vests in the train­ing that both fos­ters a highly skilled work­force and re­pairs Bri­tain’s dis­as­trous level of pro­duc­tiv­ity. Here is a fu­ture coun­try which seeks to be a global bea­con for hi-tech in­dus­tries – at­tract­ing the great­est minds and tal­ents and ex­port­ing world-lead­ing new prod­ucts – rather than a sink for dis­pos­able labour, where im­mi­gra­tion jus­ti­fi­ably at­tracts a bad rep­u­ta­tion. Above all, here is a fu­ture coun­try which stands up for free trade, the great­est source of en­rich­ment the world has ever known, against pro­tec­tion­ists wher­ever they may be found. Around the world there are count­less na­tions which seek a new cham­pion of the free trade that has made the West great, so that they too may se­cure the pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity that we en­joy. Bri­tain can be that cham­pion.

This is a co­her­ent, up­lift­ing vi­sion of the fu­ture. It is not a pop­ulist vi­sion, but it has every in­gre­di­ent to make it an over­whelm­ingly pop­u­lar vi­sion. And, as such, it rep­re­sents a much-needed po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge to Labour, whose in­creas­ing con­fi­dence be­trays a party that be­lieves it is on the cusp of power. Few read­ers of this news­pa­per will need con­vinc­ing that a Cor­byn-led gov­ern­ment re­mains a clear and present dan­ger to the health and wealth of this coun­try.

That el­e­ment of the last Con­ser­va­tive elec­tion cam­paign is still true. Of course, what was then so sadly lack­ing was a stir­ring, pos­i­tive mes­sage about what the Tories wanted to do them­selves. Well, here is just such a mes­sage. Let the ideas it con­tains ring out now, and in the weeks to come, loudly and openly around the Cab­i­net ta­ble and through­out gov­ern­ment. Let them ring out in a re­newed spirit of con­fi­dence. Let us not al­low the en­ergy, ideal­ism, judg­ment and jus­tice of our de­ci­sion to leave the EU drib­ble away. Let our lead­ers in­stead al­ways hold up the in­spir­ing prospect of a bold, tol­er­ant, cre­ative, glob­ally minded and wealthy Bri­tain, and never de­vi­ate from the path un­til we reach that des­ti­na­tion.

Let our lead­ers hold up the in­spir­ing prospect of a bold, tol­er­ant, cre­ative, glob­ally minded and wealthy Bri­tain

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