“In Victory: Magnanimity,” said Winston Churchill.
The Brexiteers won the EU referendum – but until the victory is acknowledged it is difficult for Britain to “move on”.
Some Remainers have declared that the referendum was only advisory and in the interests of Parliamentary sovereignty should be ignored. Others suggest another referendum to overturn the result.
Then there are the more cunning ones who say they accept the result and that Brexit should take place – but that we should retain membership of the Single Market.
That would mean that we still pay billions into the EU budget, still have to obey EU laws, are still denied control of our borders and would still be prohibited from negotiating free trade deals with countries around the world.
“Brexit means Brexit,” Prime Minister Theresa May has patiently repeated. It is difficult to imagine most people’s vision of Brexit would entail us continuing to be beholden to the Eurocrats in the way that membership of the Single Market would require.
Yet May’s enigmatic approach has left the UKIP element worried we could be cheated. After all, they are naturally suspicious of the establishment – even when a clear undertaking is given.
Similarly, for EU supporters, where there is doubt and delay there is hope. So there is a feeling that we are still hovering a bit, waiting to land, resulting in everyone being rather fractious.
The British are well known for being good sports, so the mood of recrimination in recent months has been rather un-British.
Doubtless the topic provided a few rowdy moments across the land over Christmas. An extended family – of different generations and from different parts of the country – converging around a dining table emboldened by a few drinks and looking back at 2016…What could possibly go wrong?
In 2017 I expect the mood to lighten. Article 50 will be triggered. It will be confirmed that membership of the Single Market is not compatible with the British Government’s stated objectives. Increasingly public opinion will show genuine acceptance of the referendum verdict and impatience to get on with delivering it. The economy will continue to grow. Those living in the UK from other EU
states will find they continue to be welcome.
Those who feared that the vote to Leave means a vote for isolationism will be encouraged by the growing evidence to the contrary.
Dan Hannan, the Conservative Euro MP who was a leading Leave campaigner, has written a new book, What Next?, which has a positive and conciliatory tone.
“Whatever arrangements we have with our friends afterwards will be based on co-operation rather than coercion, on alliance rather than assimilation, on sovereignty rather than subordination,” he says. “My sense is that most of the 48 per cent accept this fact with good grace, as do almost all the Conservative MPs who backed Remain.”
Hannan also states that the UK “naturally has an immediate interest in the prosperity of its neighbours.”
Theresa May’s Christmas message talked of the importance of us “coming together” as a country after the referendum result. That might seem a forlorn hope to some, but the process has already quietly started.
In the New Year things will gradually calm down. Our national characteristics of quiet resolve and being polite to each other will return.