It’s Boris’ cheer­ful­ness that Europhiles de­spise most

The Sunday Telegraph - - Sunday Comment -

Ex­actly 25 years ago, Bri­tain left the Ex­change Rate Mech­a­nism. Ev­ery­one agreed it would be a disas­ter – ev­ery­one, that is, ex­cept the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The CBI, the TUC, the BBC, Labour and the Lib Dems had all sup­ported the ERM, see­ing it as a pre­cur­sor to the euro. They ap­plauded when John Ma­jor warned that leav­ing would be “a be­trayal of Bri­tain’s fu­ture”. In the event, though, the peo­ple turned out to be wiser than the ex­perts. Leav­ing the ERM ush­ered in 16 years of growth.

Did our Europhile elites learn their les­son? Of course not. Within a decade, they were hand-wring­ing in pre­cisely the same way about our de­ci­sion to keep the pound. “The euro, de­spite the fool­ish as­ser­tions of many com­men­ta­tors, has pro­vided great in­ter­nal sta­bil­ity to the eu­ro­zone,” pro­nounced Nick Clegg. “Our non­mem­ber­ship of the eu­ro­zone is threat­en­ing great swathes of Bri­tish in­dus­try,” fret­ted Michael He­sel­tine. “Un­til we come off the fence over join­ing the euro, we will slip back­wards,” ar­gued Peter Man­del­son, his mud­dled metaphor in­di­cat­ing mud­dled think­ing.

The same peo­ple are again pre­dict­ing catas­tro­phe, and again their fore­casts are turn­ing out to be wrong. Fif­teen months af­ter the Brexit vote, the promised re­ces­sion has spec­tac­u­larly failed to ma­te­ri­alise. Growth, man­u­fac­tur­ing out­put, ex­ports, the stock ex­change, re­tail ac­tiv­ity, in­vest­ment and em­ploy­ment have all risen. But we are deal­ing here with a psy­cho­log­i­cal rather than an eco­nomic phe­nom­e­non. The as­sump­tions that had ruled Bri­tain for half a cen­tury were abruptly over­turned last year; it was bound to disori­en­tate our Estab­lish­ment.

Noth­ing seems to ir­ri­tate hard­core Europhiles more than op­ti­mism, and Boris John­son’s sunny in­ter­na­tion­al­ism bothers them far more than Nigel Farage’s an­gry na­tivism. Boris’s ar­ti­cle in yes­ter­day’s Tele­graph was char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally chirpy, dwelling on Bri­tain’s tech­no­log­i­cal suc­cesses, the strength of our econ­omy and the op­por­tu­ni­ties we shall now have as a global trad­ing power. Frankly, he wouldn’t be do­ing his job as For­eign Sec­re­tary if he didn’t talk the coun­try up. But to the Eey­ores such Tig­ger­ish­ness is un­for­giv­able.

What par­tic­u­larly irks his crit­ics is that Boris is, in their eyes, a class traitor. Clever, mul­ti­lin­gual and ed­u­cated partly in Brus­sels, he is some­one Con­ti­nu­ity Re­main­ers feel ought to have been one of them. They can dis­miss most of the 52 per cent as big­ots and dimwits, but Boris in­fu­ri­ates them. Hence their brief­ings that he is un­der­per­form­ing as For­eign Sec­re­tary – a view you never hear from his of­fi­cials, who point to suc­cesses in paci­fy­ing So­ma­lia and Libya, re­strain­ing Trump in the Mid­dle East, ral­ly­ing Europe against Putin and en­sur­ing that for­eign aid is de­ter­mined by Bri­tish in­ter­ests, not by the prej­u­dices of Left­ist NGOs.

We will look back on Brexit as we do on White Wed­nes­day, and won­der what all the fuss was about. In the mean­time, though, I do wish our more ex­citable Re­main­ers would cheer up. It would make them feel bet­ter.

Class traitor? Many Re­main­ers feel be­trayed by Boris John­son and have briefed that he is un­der­per­form­ing as For­eign Sec­re­tary

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