“Lord, make me chaste – but not yet,” St Augustine famously said, as he sought to postpone his appointment with Christ’s demanding moral code. Much the same can be said for our indefatigable Remainers as they seek to spin out Britain’s membership of the European Union into the wide blue yonder.
“Lord, let us leave the EU – but not yet,” should serve as their epitaph.
To recap, briefly, the people of this country have voted six times to leave the European Union. In 2014, they handed Nigel Farage’s uncompromisingly pro-Brexit UKIP party victory in the elections to the European Parliament, the first time in 100 years that a so-called minor party in the UK had won a national election.
In the 2015 general election, they voted in Prime Minister David Cameron, who had promised an in/out referendum on British membership of the EU.
In 2016, 17.4 million people, the largest ever vote for a political party or proposition, backed Leave in a hard-fought referendum in which virtually every political party and every elite organisation supported Remain.
In 2017, over 80 per cent of the public voted for a party pledged to enact the result of the referendum.
In the European elections of 2019, Mr Farage, this time adorned in the colours of the Brexit Party, swept to victory and ensured Theresa May’s departure.
Then, later in 2019, with Parliament paralysed, the people gave Boris Johnson, standing on a “Get Brexit Done” platform, an overwhelming Commons majority.
2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 (twice) – every time the same battle was fought, the same arguments deployed on either side, and the same result was achieved. It is now 2020, nearly four years after the vote to end all votes, and Britain is still subject to the bills, the laws and the courts of Brussels.
True, in purely legal terms, Britain left the EU on January 31, 2020. But in practice it has not left. In terms of its obligations to the EU nothing has changed. In fact, the country’s position is worse than it was before the referendum. Then, as a voting member, it had some influence, though not much, over decisions made in the European Council and the European Commission. It had members of the European Parliament, admittedly a Potemkin affair, but one that gave its elected politicians a stage on which to kick over the coals if the fancy took them.
Now it is voiceless and voteless in Brussels – and in the smoke-free rooms where decisions affecting over 500 million people, including 66 million Brits, are made. Not since medieval kings sent Parliament packing at the drop of a halberd has there been such a travesty of democracy.
The tervigersations of the Remainer circus should not be forgotten as they clamber out of their political graves for another run round the cliff edge. These are just some of their least reliable pronouncements after the referendum.
“It was important to respect the referendum result”. Yvette Cooper, Labour
“I will respect the result. It’s a dreadful decision. We have to make the best of it.” Anna Soubry, Conservative defector
“The decision of the electorate in the referendum must be respected.” Dominic Grieve, Conservative defector
“I really have no time for calls for a second referendum” Chuka Umunna, Labour defector
“We on the Labour benches respect the referendum result and accept that Britain must leave the European Union.” Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
“We have a duty to accept and respect the outcome of the referendum.” Keir Starmer, Labour leader
To cut a long story short, the Remainer faction in Parliament, always a majority considering the fact that 70 per cent of MPs voted Remain in 2016, played for time. Allied with a Remain-obsessed Speaker, they exploited their numbers and their ingenuity in playing parliamentary games to spin out the match.
The fall of Mrs May and the advent of Boris Johnson threatened to cut short their seemingly timeless Test, not least when his open offer of a “People’s Vote”, aka a general election, was grudgingly accepted by Mr Corbyn and the Lib Dem rump. Boris’s “People’s Vote”, long cherished by the Remainers, broke the deadlock. Brexit was done.
But was it? The Remainers had bought time – over three and a half years when the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed in the Commons. And the transition period, the time when Britain and the EU had to attempt a deal covering trading arrangements and security cooperation, still lay ahead: eleven long months ahead. Something might turn up?
And something has turned up. The worst viral pandemic to hit the world for 100 years. Lockdowns encircle the globe. European countries, including Britain, are among the worst affected. The global economy has suffered a cardiac arrest. The seductive chorus of the Remainers can be heard again.
Now, surely, is not the time for the country to plunge deeper into the mire. Sensible chaps and chapesses understand that we must put aside this mad gamble called Brexit and return to our senses. It would be crazy to forge ahead with leaving our Continental partners and risking flying solo with the world in such peril. We must cling on to what we have got at least until the dark skies clear. We must extend the transition period for a year to two and see how things pan out. Everyone must see that.
The report Brexit delayed is Brexit denied, published by the newly formed think tank the Centre for Brexit Policy, published at the weekend, seeks to demonstrate the falsity of such a proposition.
For all the reasons adumbrated, now is the time to leave. Covid-19 has exposed the hubris of the EU’s dreams of a superstate to rival the great powers. Its much vaunted solidarity has turned out to be a sham. The economies of its southern states are on the verge of bankruptcy. Its balsa wood currency twists in the wind. Germany cannot and will not save Italy, France and Spain.
That is on the debit side of continued EU membership – along with a huge cost to the UK if it funks Brexit again. The CBP report says a two-year delay will cost the UK £380 billion in lost free trade agreements with countries outside the EU, higher and continuing Brussels budget contributions and potentially massive future liabilities, and failure to make big savings from taking back control of immigration and business regulation.
On the credit side is the freedom and flexibility we will acquire from leaving to rebuild our shattered economy while spared the meddling from Brussels. We will be able to harness our natural talents and undeniable creativity and energy to curb the virus and get the country back to work and study.
Britain is like a man standing by an unexploded bomb. The bomb is ticking, louder and louder. The prudent step is not to fiddle with the bomb. The prudent step is retire to a safe distance.
That is what we advocate at the Centre for Brexit Policy. Do not extend the transition period. It is a pity it was not shorter than 11 months.
We should realise that Brexit delayed is Brexit denied. Brexit has been delayed – for nearly four years. And, though it grieves us to admit it, the Remainers’ time-wasting has not yet been all in vain. Delay Brexit for much longer and the people will see that they have been denied.
Click here to read the Centre for Brexit Policy’s report.