Boris Johnson’s Government now needs to anchor Brexit and embrace the many opportunities it affords

Boris Johnson’s Government now needs to anchor Brexit and embrace the many opportunities it affords

When people have strained at the yoke for what seems a lifetime and then suddenly the top of a steep hill is reached, there is exhilaration – all at once: the lifting of a great burden, a great sense of relief, a wonderful view towards the horizon. This is what I and I suspect many others experienced on election night. 

Of course there follows bathos – what now? The anti-climax! Then many folk begin to try to find battles to fight; what else would they do without the struggle?

This is a heady brew – after all, last time we were told that the war was over, in fact it had hardly begun. Some of us foresaw the machinations of the establishment, the phalanx of vested interests. Nonetheless, we should avoid trying to fight phantom battles which could complicate and frustrate the delivery of Brexit. We have a new and different administration now in office with an apparent determination to see through what should have been done in 2016. Certainly the boss appears to have lost none of his Vote Leave battlebus vim and verve for Brexit. 

Thinking back to the day after the referendum result and the look that morning of rabbits in headlights in the eyes of the key politicians who had led the Vote Leave campaign, I cannot help but think that things have a habit of turning out for the best. Certainly the protagonists are much better equipped now than they would have been three years ago to deliver a success for the UK. Much vitriol has been exhausted, people of all stripes want it done. The EU have been wrestled and likewise are better disposed, they have viewed the abyss. We have seen the tactics of the counter-parties. We now have tanks.

The establishment had their “Ludendorff offensive” moment and we Leavers held on by our finger tips, the denouement being the European Parliament elections in may. The tide was turned. It is as if we have been in the trenches for three years, resisting the stormtrooper onslaught and then countered to the green fields and beyond. Not to stretch this analogy too far, however, we may not yet have a capitulation, merely an armistice. There is no sign yet of loser’s consent, only loser’s deceit. 

For the time being, at least, the next stage must be watched like a hawk – lest we win the war and lose the peace. 

By the way, I make no apology to the woke for this analogy: I had a Great Uncle killed at Ypres and a Grandpa who fought at Paschendale and to the end. I am sure they would have approved. 

Boris Johnson’s administration have a unique opportunity to set themselves up for a three-term government. Much will depend on domestic policy and keeping the regions engaged and enthusiastic. It will be as much to do with tone as with substance and it will be important to show modesty, rein in the Tory toffs and employ a “servant leader” approach – like the best corporate leadership in people businesses. Of course, there will need to be substance. Signs of this are beginning to appear, as are indications of a determination to tackle the institutions of the entitled establishment that the new Tory voters demand, including their grip on quango-land largesse and the media.

Most importantly it will be about anchoring Brexit and embracing fully the opportunities and benefits that it affords. 

Those benefits include, of course, taking control of laws, borders and money; the economic boost from tariff reduction; repatriation of the net and gross contribution; better and simpler regulation; tax reduction; and trade deals, all of which have been discussed ad nauseam on this website. I am afraid we must start again in a wider dialogue as it is not until we are utterly bored of them that the “cloth-eared“ commentariat will even begin to hear. We must pretend none of it was ever said before. 

Talking of trade deals, I urge us all not to be fixated. Much of the economic benefit of Brexit can be attained without any new trade arrangements by executing our new-found freedoms unilaterally. Trade arrangements are the cherry on the icing on the cake. They are also a hostage as they require the agreement of other parties. I urge the Government: do not let yourself be a hostage to fortune. 

There are a number of very important decisions which will need to be taken soon which will define relative success and which will determine whether the election was truly a sign of things to come, or a flash in the pan. These decisions, crucially, relate to the nature of our leaving.

We have seen how the EU negotiate and the traps that must be avoided. A strict, self-imposed timetable with a credible ability to walk away is the only route to success. A “burning platform“ is necessary for there to be positive intent, but the heat must be on the counter-party. We should not allow them to dictate sequencing or content. Preferably the money should also be withheld or held in “escrow”.

Most importantly, there needs to be a confident, competent and committed negotiating team with real expertise, preferably from outside and not bound by Whitehall. 

The delivery of an economically turbo-charged Brexit, with a clear vision of the future, will be the greatest reward for the regions – provided the economic benefits suit the wider economy, rather than just the City. It will also remove uncertainty. Just be clear, there is now no need to dress it up. Business will more than cope, they will prosper, they will seek the opportunity; the best thrive in creative disruption and go on to be giants. The bureaucratic multi-nationals will get over it and those that don’t, don’t deserve to be in business.

The same applies to the nations. I have always thought that the best chance of ensuring the integrity of the Union is for the UK to leave the EU and be successful. The gravitational pull of this will be the best chance of keeping Northern Ireland and Scotland in the Union. After all, Northern Ireland could easily have a border poll and vote to leave on a simple majority; arguably the withdrawal agreement formula makes this less likely and Britain’s success will help.

As for Scotland, it had its once-in-a-lifetime referendum but a successful Britain and the clarity around borders as per Northern Ireland will bring home the consequences of exit. Only the indifference or outright hostility of England and Wales could change this. And that is not impossible. 

In any event, it would be quite wrong for nations which represent less than ten percent of the population to define the future of the ninety percent. Without Northern Ireland and Scotland, two thirds of parliamentary constituencies would be for Leave and there would be likely a Conservative government for a very, very long time.

Boris Johnson is the perfect man for the moment at a time when we need positive and inspiring leadership. The possibilities are now legion, the Government has the key to the Brexit castle. There were many others who thought they did, but the locks were changed.