Theresa May’s Florence speech must paint a positive vision for the UK’s post-Brexit future

Theresa May’s Florence speech must paint a positive vision for the UK’s post-Brexit future

After the 2015 general election, I recall a Freedom Association team meeting we held in our old London office aboard HMS President (1918). The Conservative Party had just won its first general election since 1992. We also knew that at some point in the next two years there would be a referendum to decide our membership of the European Union. What we didn’t know, of course, was when that would be. As you can imagine, we hatched a number of different plans to cover all eventualities.

I commented at the time, just as I had commented previously, that to win a referendum, we had to be unremittingly positive. We knew that the full arsenal of the establishment machine would be fired against us. We knew that in order to win the day, those who wanted us to remain part of the EU would be negative in the extreme. They had to frighten the British people to win. If we wanted change, we had to give damned good reasons why. We had to present a vision backed up with facts.

The same is true today. Although we won the referendum battle, there are times when I feel we are in danger of losing the war. Very few ministers are painting a picture of freedom, liberty, and prosperity. Just as post-war governments until 1979 managed decline, too many, aided and abetted by the likes of the BBC, see Brexit as a huge burden; that it is their mission to get the least worst outcome. This is not what 52 per cent of those who voted in last year’s referendum want. Nor is it what the majority of those who voted Remain want, either.

Fortune favours the brave. No-one has ever built a successful business by being risk averse. The most successful military leaders have been those who have inspired their troops, and yes, gambled from time to time. In my youth, I always wanted Ian Botham to do well; to hit a hundred and bag plenty of wickets. I was disappointed when he failed, but when he succeeded, boy did he succeed. He turned games around. He inspired his teammates. He made his country proud. Hardly surprising then that Sir Ian is a Brexiteer. Nor is it surprising that after some soul searching, Boris Johnson made his decision to back Leave.

In his tour de force published in the Telegraph last Saturday, Boris painted a picture of what can be. It’s within our reach. We voted to leave the EU because it is within our reach. The British people are not a bunch of masochists and sadists who want to inflict pain on themselves and others. When Nicky Morgan, during the referendum campaign, urged those who were considering voting Leave to think of their children, she failed to grasp that that is exactly what they were doing. On the morning of 24th June 2016, when the BBC called the referendum for Leave, I was holding my five-day old son in my arms. I voted Leave because I want a better future for him. If I had thought that Brexit would fail, I would have voted Remain.

With the country having voted to Leave, our political leaders must not only embrace that decision, but do so with the same optimism that led millions of us to back Brexit in the first place. On Friday in Florence the Prime Minister will be setting out her vision for our post-Brexit future. It is essential that she paints a positive vision that trumpets the brighter future that is there for the taking.