STEPHEN GLOVER: Theresa May should make a rousing Brexit speech saying it’s not us who are fantasists, it’s Brussels
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London
Many people, be they Remainers or Leavers, are sunk in depression over Brexit. What follows is a rousing speech Theresa May could give to lift our spirits and her political fortunes.
This is the fourth major speech I have made about this country’s future after Brexit, and it is to my mind by far the most important.
I accept many people feel a sense of drift. They accuse the Government of confusion and indecision. They believe our European partners are making all the demands, and we are making all the concessions.
Some commentators even suggest we don’t have much of a plan. They predict the proposals we unveil at the EU summit in late June will be negligible and immediately rejected.
The time has come to set out some essential home truths. The first thing to say is that I am convinced this country will have a glorious future after we leave the EU.
I voted Remain during the referendum, but the more I have thought about the opportunities ahead, the surer I have become that the British people made the right choice on June 23, 2016. I believe in Brexit.
And, to be frank, the condescending, unbending and sometimes downright arrogant way in which European Commission officials have approached negotiations has not increased my admiration for the EU or its institutions.
The latest insult fired in our direction by officials in Brussels is that we are ‘chasing a fantasy’. This is outrageous. I am a practical woman and we are a pragmatic people. We want a commonsense solution that benefits both Britain and Europe.
Might it be that our friends in the Commission are accusing us of the very defect — a lack of realism — from which they themselves are suffering to an alarming degree?
All over Europe, governments led by populists are openly challenging the EU and its diktats. The new government in Italy proposes the mass deportation of illegal immigrants in defiance of EU practice. There are serious questions over Italy’s continued membership of the euro.
In Austria and Hungary and Poland and Slovenia and the Czech Republic, governments are springing up, elected by people who love their countries and are increasingly exasperated by interference from unelected Eurocrats with their unrealistic dreams of a European superstate.
By the way, on the subject of dreamers, the Archbishop of Canterbury was silly to say the EU is mankind’s greatest achievement since the fall of the Roman Empire. What about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment?
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Justin Welby didn’t just loftily dismiss the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit. He also overlooked the fact that 60 per cent of his own depleted Church of England flock are estimated to have done so.
To return to those EU officials in Brussels. I suggest it is they who are the true fantasists. Isn’t a smidgin of humility on their part in order as their ramshackle empire totters?
Which brings me to Michel Barnier, the EU’s supercilious chief negotiator, who has not gone to the bother of putting himself in front of electors for nearly two decades.
Mr Barnier is a former Gaullist politician born into a Gaullist family. His hero, Charles de Gaulle, was a great Frenchman. He was, however, unable ever to thank Great Britain for the decisive role it played in saving his country from fascists — some of whom were French.
I wonder whether it ever occurs to Mr Barnier, and his jovial boss Jean-Claude Juncker, that they would not be standing where they are, haranguing the British people, if this country had not fought on alone after France capitulated to Hitler 78 years ago?
The absence of any acknowledgement of historical debt is shocking. Like his idol — and, one must regretfully add, some of his fellow countrymen — Mr Barnier doesn’t do gratitude.
My own ruffled feathers are unimportant. But Britain is a great country with a proud history. Its government should not be dismissed as a contemptible supplicant or bankrupt banana republic, and its elected ministers patronised.
As I have said before, no deal is better than a bad deal. We won’t be browbeaten into accepting terms that would make it more difficult for us to pursue a prosperous path after Brexit. We won’t submit to a public punishment beating.
Glover is calling on the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to ‘countermand the destructive impulses of Brussels’
In recent weeks, the Commission has shown appalling small-mindedness. It has doubted whether Britain can retain access to the European Arrest Warrant and Europol database. Does it want to boost terrorism?
Brussels pours doubt on whether there can be a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic even though such a border exists, on a far bigger scale, between non-EU Switzerland and its EU neighbours.
Let me emphasise that Northern Ireland is as much part of the United Kingdom as Surrey or Argyll, and a British government could never undermine its integrity. No French politician — certainly not De Gaulle — would compromise French territory.
As for the Commission questioning whether Britain can remain part of the Galileo satellite project, which hopes to establish a rival system to the U.S.-run GPS network, I should be absolutely clear.
If the Commission insists we leave this worthwhile project, we shall be presenting it with a bill for more than £1 billion, which represents the investment British taxpayers have made in Galileo.
More precisely, we will be reducing the £40 billion which we have — rather too generously, some might say — agreed to pay the EU over a number of years by way of an exit fee.
And because our admirable but sometimes over-accommodating Chancellor of the Exchequer may have given our EU colleagues the wrong impression, let me reiterate that if there is no deal, we shan’t pay Brussels a penny.
Yet it need not come to that. I hope it doesn’t. It remains in the interests of this country and our European friends to make a deal based on the uninterrupted and tariff-free movement of goods.
That is what European companies want, as much as our own. On Tuesday, the head of Audi — one of Germany’s biggest carmakers — called for a tariff-free trade deal with Britain that would preserve existing markets on both sides of the Channel.
This is what many European politicians, alive to the interests of their businesses, also want. The trouble is that unelected and uncommercial officials at the Commission put ideological purity, and their desire to punish Britain, before workers’ wellbeing.
We therefore ask Angela Merkel in Germany, the business-friendly Emmanuel Macron in France, and the new Eurosceptic government of Italy, to countermand the destructive impulses of Brussels and help forge an agreement in all our interests.
I also believe EU countries rightly value our military prowess and intelligence capability, both of which are unequalled in Europe. Why on earth would they not wish to maintain so valuable a partnership?
But if they are determined to try to humiliate our country even at the expense of their own economies and security, we will leave the EU without an agreement rather than accept abject conditions that might include the fragmentation of the United Kingdom.
It goes without saying that we are making detailed contingency plans for no deal, and that stories of possible shortages of food and medicines are as irresponsible as they are unfounded.
Unlike many on the Labour benches and a few misguided souls on my own, I have a deep faith in this country’s genius, and am proud of its great trading history. And I have no doubt our best days lie ahead — after Brexit.
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