Liberty is born – but can she thrive?


For someone like me who has spent more than 20 years arguing against British membership of the European Union, this should be a time of deep joy.

Instead it feels all too like that tense period following the birth of a poorly child: the fleeting joy of the successful delivery immediately eclipsed by worries about whether he or she will pull through.

None of this is a surprise, of course. Indeed, the only thing that has defied my wearily cynical expectations so far was the success of the Leave campaign in the poll.

leave winI remain convinced that the entirely predictable attempt either to ignore the result of the referendum, or to overturn it through another vote, will plough on. After all, this is what the EU’s backers have done with every vote against it in the past.

We are not helped by the fact that the Government evidently did not mean what it said in the £9m propaganda brochure it sent to all households at the start of the campaign: “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”

Which we now learn actually meant: “The Government will arrogantly assume that you will abide by its advice and make no contingency plans whatsoever to initiate the process of withdrawal from the EU should you make that choice.”

Cameron resignsThis was not a general election. The rainbow coalition of Johnson, Gove, Grayling, Stuart, Field, Hoey and Farage was not an alternative government in waiting.

If Ed Miliband had won in 2015 and then stuttered helplessly “What do I do now?” none of us might have been particularly surprised, but we would have been fully entitled to complain.

I don’t think it is reasonable to expect the Leave campaign to have unfurled a blueprint for exit last Friday morning but I do think we need one very soon, certainly more quickly than the current leisurely timetable for replacing Dave, and re-electing Jeremy for further humiliation by his Parliamentary colleagues, will allow.

The longer it all goes on, the louder the voices for ignoring the will of the people will become.

I have, however, one glowing ember of hope, and it is this. Right now, the EU actually seems keener to be rid of us than we are to leave them.

Nigel Farage (L), British Member of the European parliament and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), speaks while Jean-Claude Juncker (C), candidate for President of the Commission looks on during the plenary session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 15 July 2014. Daily Mail grab Sky News

Perhaps this is cunning reverse psychology, knowing how much the British like bloody-mindedly going against the wishes of foreigners.

But I suspect not. For I think they may at last grasp the reality that dawned on me like a flash of lightning when the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 created the European Union in the first place. 

The British people had never knowingly signed up for this, and everything in our history suggested that, given a free choice, we never would. That is why I campaigned for a referendum then, and argued strongly for one on the European Constitution that was smuggled through, after referendum rejections in France and The Netherlands, as the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.

Unlike the nations of the continent, our history since 1066 has not been one of invasion, defeat and dictatorship. We have played a global role, including the creation of the world’s current premier superpower, and the shaping of several rising ones. Our language and distinctive legal system have been adopted around the planet.

Were we ever really going to be content to accede to our absorption into a new country called Europe, in which Britain would have no more significance as a concept than Mercia or Northumbria do today?

Unless you are a true Euro-zealot like Michael Heseltine or Kenneth Clarke, I believe not. And if that is the case, what purpose would a Remain vote have served other than prolonging the agony as we were dragged, with our fingers screaming down the blackboard, into an integrated European future in which we did not have our hearts?

I am at one with the true believers in this: being a member of the EU but not being part of the euro, Schengen and so forth cannot make long term sense. Let them get on and see if they can yet make a success of their grand projet without the UK acting as a perpetual drag anchor.

But what of “the young”? If only we had allowed the children to vote, or a few more years of indoctrination to take effect, the result could have been so different.

the young onesSo it could. It could have been different now but for the fact that that nearly two thirds of 18-24 year-olds couldn’t be bothered to get off their backsides to vote.

It could also have been different if the EU had granted Mr Cameron anything like the deal he wanted; or if he had had the sense to stand above the fray, as Harold Wilson did in 1975, rather than campaigning so vociferously for Remain. For I am convinced that no-one did more for Leave than he and Stuart Rose (and few did more for Remain than Nigel Farage).

But it isn’t different. It is where it is. And the verdict of the people must be accepted.

For whatever sentimentalists might wish us to believe, it isn’t all about what the kiddies think they want. I have young children, and I put what I firmly believe to be their best interests to the fore when I voted Leave. I am also confident that I have far greater wisdom now, at 62, then I had when I voted Yes to the Common Market at 21 in 1975.

I also had a sense of the duty I owed my late parents, and all they endured through two world wars, which I am 100% sure they did not see as being fought for the purpose of eradicating the country they were proud to call their own.

Not a drop of Champagne has passed my lips since Thursday night, and this is only partly because I have been laid low by a particularly gruesome stomach bug (which at least prevented me from sleeping through the referendum results).

But I am determined that I shall do before too long (and, yes, it will be French Champagne, not English sparkling wine, for I have no wish to cut myself off from the Continent in any respect other than this: I do not wish to be governed and regulated by it.)

The child is born. Five days old now, her vital signs are good. Let’s get her out of that incubator and bring her home. And let us call her Liberty.



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