Three voices, one powerful message...
THE Brexit referendum was not a magic spell which instantly wafted the United Kingdom into a new, transformed status. It did not relieve MPs, nor anyone else in a position of authority, of responsibility for the myriad details of departure.
And so it was always a little foolish to imagine that the vote to leave the EU was the end of the matter. In truth, it was just the beginning. Yet we still have no clear idea of what sort of departure we will eventually make.
As Brexiteers squabble and flounder, some of them seem to be expecting – even hoping for – a departure without a deal, in which we simply end our EU membership and work out what happens afterwards.
Under these circumstances, thoughtful figures on both sides of the Brexit divide need to urge caution.
Plenty of those who voted to leave, probably the majority, never objected to the economic benefits of the EU, just to its political interference.
So a deal which preserves as many of those benefits as possible, especially those provided by the Single Market and the Customs Union, is not in any way a betrayal of the Brexit majority.
This is why the declaration by three leading figures from each major political party, which The Mail on Sunday publishes today, is so significant. The trio – former Tory Cabinet Minister Nicky Morgan, former Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband – have formidable experience of politics.
They confess to having many disagreements. But all agree that as many as possible of our beneficial economic ties to the EU should be retained.
They reject the blithe claims of extreme Leavers that a hard Brexit will somehow automatically lead to an exciting future of free trade. And they voice the silent doubts of many in business and industry about the uncertainty which lies ahead.
Their warnings are both reasonable and powerful. There is nothing anti-democratic about this. Nobody is attempting to defy the will of the people or overturn a democratic vote.
All that these experienced and cautious voices are saying is that our exit from the EU should not hurt the British people. Both the 52 per cent who voted to leave and the 48 per cent who voted to stay can surely agree on that.