I can­not stress too much that Bri­tain is part of Europe – and al­ways will be

The only change is that the UK will ex­tri­cate it­self from the job-de­stroy­ing coils of EU bu­reau­cracy

The Daily Telegraph - - Comment - BORIS JOHN­SON

This EU ref­er­en­dum has been the most ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal event of our life­time. Never in our his­tory have so many peo­ple been asked to de­cide a big ques­tion about the na­tion’s fu­ture. Never have so many thought so deeply, or wres­tled so hard with their con­sciences, in an ef­fort to come up with the right an­swer.

It has been a gru­elling cam­paign in which we have seen di­vi­sions be­tween fam­ily and friends and col­leagues – some­times en­tirely am­i­ca­ble, some­times, alas, less so. In the end, there was a clear re­sult. More than 17 mil­lion peo­ple voted to leave the EU – more than have ever as­sented to any propo­si­tion in our demo­cratic his­tory. Some now cast doubt on their mo­tives, or even on their un­der­stand­ing of what was at stake.

It is said that those who voted Leave were mainly driven by anx­i­eties about im­mi­gra­tion. I do not be­lieve that is so. Af­ter meet­ing thou­sands of peo­ple in the course of the cam­paign, I can tell you that the num­ber one is­sue was con­trol – a sense that Bri­tish democ­racy was be­ing un­der­mined by the EU sys­tem, and that we should re­store to the peo­ple that vi­tal power: to kick out their rulers at elec­tions, and to choose new ones.

I be­lieve that mil­lions of peo­ple who voted Leave were also in­spired by the be­lief that Bri­tain is a great coun­try, and that out­side the job-de­stroy­ing coils of EU bu­reau­cracy we can sur­vive and thrive as never be­fore. I think that they are right in their analysis, and right in their choice. And yet we who agreed with this ma­jor­ity verdict must ac­cept that it was not en­tirely over­whelm­ing.

There were more than 16 mil­lion who wanted to re­main. They are our neigh­bours, brothers and sis­ters who did what they pas­sion­ately be­lieve was right. In a democ­racy ma­jori­ties may de­cide but ev­ery­one is of equal value. We who are part of this nar­row ma­jor­ity must do ev­ery­thing we can to re­as­sure the Re­main­ers. We must reach out, we must heal, we must build bridges – be­cause it is clear that some have feel­ings of dis­may, and of loss, and con­fu­sion.

I be­lieve that this cli­mate of ap­pre­hen­sion is un­der­stand­able, given what peo­ple were told dur­ing the cam­paign, but based on a pro­found mis­un­der­stand­ing about what has re­ally taken place. At home and abroad, the neg­a­tive con­se­quences are be­ing wildly over­done, and the up­side is be­ing ig­nored. The stock mar­ket is way above its level of last au­tumn; the pound re­mains higher than it was in 2013 and 2014.

The econ­omy is in good hands. Most sen­si­ble peo­ple can see that Bank of Eng­land gov­er­nor Mark Car­ney has done a su­perb job – and now that the ref­er­en­dum is over, he will be able to con­tinue his work with­out be­ing in the po­lit­i­cal fir­ing-line. Thanks in large part to the re­forms put in place by David Cameron and Ge­orge Os­borne, the fun­da­men­tals of the UK econ­omy are out­stand­ingly strong – a dy­namic and out­ward-look­ing econ­omy with an ever-im­prov­ing skills base, and with a big lead in some of the key growth sec­tors of the 21st cen­tury.

We should be in­cred­i­bly proud and pos­i­tive about the UK, and what it can now achieve. And we will achieve those things to­gether, with all four na­tions united. We had one Scot­land ref­er­en­dum in 2014, and I do not de­tect any real ap­petite to have an­other one soon; and it goes with­out say­ing that we are much bet­ter to­gether in forg­ing a new and bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with the EU – based on free trade and part­ner­ship, rather than a fed­eral sys­tem.

I can­not stress too much that Bri­tain is part of Europe, and al­ways will be. There will still be in­tense and in­ten­si­fy­ing Euro­pean co­op­er­a­tion and part­ner­ship in a huge num­ber of fields: the arts, the sci­ences, the uni­ver­si­ties, and on im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. EU cit­i­zens liv­ing in this coun­try will have their rights fully pro­tected, and the same goes for Bri­tish cit­i­zens liv­ing in the EU.

Bri­tish peo­ple will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to set­tle down. As the Ger­man equiv­a­lent of the CBI – the BDI – has very sen­si­bly re­minded us, there will con­tinue to be free trade, and ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket. Bri­tain is and al­ways will be a great Euro­pean power, of­fer­ing topt­able opin­ions and giv­ing lead­er­ship on ev­ery­thing from for­eign pol­icy to defence to counter-ter­ror­ism and in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing – all the things we need to do to­gether to make our world safer.

The only change – and it will not come in any great rush – is that the UK will ex­tri­cate it­self from the EU’s ex­tra­or­di­nary and opaque sys­tem of leg­is­la­tion: the vast and grow­ing cor­pus of law en­acted by a Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice from which there can be no ap­peal. This will bring not threats, but golden op­por­tu­ni­ties for this coun­try – to pass laws and set taxes ac­cord­ing to the needs of the UK.

Yes, the Gov­ern­ment will be able to take back demo­cratic con­trol of im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, with a bal­anced and hu­mane points-based sys­tem to suit the needs of busi­ness and in­dus­try. Yes, there will be a sub­stan­tial sum of money which we will no longer send to Brus­sels, but which could be used on pri­or­i­ties such as the NHS. Yes, we will be able to do free trade deals with the growth economies of the world in a way that is cur­rently for­bid­den.

There is ev­ery cause for op­ti­mism; a Bri­tain re­booted, re­set, re­newed and able to en­gage with the whole world. This was a seis­mic cam­paign whose lessons must be learnt by politi­cians at home and abroad. We heard the voices of mil­lions of the for­got­ten peo­ple, who have seen no real in­crease in their in­comes, while FTSE-100 chiefs now earn 150 times the av­er­age pay of their em­ploy­ees. We must pur­sue ac­tively the one-na­tion poli­cies that are among David Cameron’s fine legacy, such as his cam­paigns on the Liv­ing Wage and Life Chances. There is no doubt that many were speak­ing up for them­selves.

But they were also speak­ing up for democ­racy, and the verdict of his­tory will be that the Bri­tish peo­ple got it right.

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