Today Theresa May finally told EU technocrats that our patience is running out. The EU will have to respect the referendum decision to take control of our borders, laws and money.
A couple of days earlier, no doubt in an attempt to undermine the prime minister, groups that intend to reverse the referendum result had redoubled their efforts. A new organisation called Global Future used the ploy of claiming that the real divide in British politics is no longer between the left and the right but between ‘open versus closed’. It turns out that the three main tests of ‘openness’ are support for uncontrolled immigration, enthusiasm for multiculturalism, and a preference for internationalism over nationalism.
Global Future follows the master propagandist Tony Blair in their use of the contrast between closed and open. Two of the people behind Global Future are former directors of strategy at Downing Street: Lord Andrew Cooper worked for David Cameron and Lord Spencer Livermore for Gordon Brown.
They seek to undermine the solidarity of members of the free political associations we call the nation state by exaggerating divisions. This is the value of multiculturalism. Unfettered immigration has the same effect by weakening the sense of reciprocity on which liberal democracy relies
Theresa May has delivered her long-awaited speech on Brexit, giving more details of what she wants from the UK’s future trade arrangements with the European Union.
May said: “I want to be straight with people – because the reality is that we all need to face up to some hard facts.
“We are leaving the single market. Life is going to be different. In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now. How could the EU’s structure of rights and obligations be sustained, if the UK – or any country – were allowed to enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations?”
Mrs May’s Mansion House speech was an emphatic rebuttal of the accusation that Brexit is a defensive strategy. Any agreement, she said, must be consistent with the kind of country we want to be: ‘a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy. A nation of pioneers, innovators, explorers and creators’.
Theresa May’s key points, many of which will spark anger amongst Brexiteers were:
- Theresa May set out the ‘hard facts’ about Brexit and reminded voters ‘life is going to be different’ after the UK leaves the EU.
- The prime minister acknowledged the UK can not have ‘all the benefits’ of the single market without ‘all of the obligations’.
- May said Britain had to accept that the European Court of Justice would ‘continue to affect’ the UK even if it was no longer under its jurisdiction.
- She said the UK was prepared to make ‘binding commitments’ for regulations to remain in line with the EU.
- The PM said the UK would commit to keep regulatory standards ‘as least as high’ as the EU in order to facilitate a ‘customs partnership’.
- May said the UK would be willing to pay to continue to participate on EU agencies including the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
- She rejected Brexiteers arguments that it was up to the EU to solve the Irish border problem. ‘We chose to leave and we have a responsibility to help find a solution,’ she said.
- May rejected the EU’s claim the UK was unfairly ‘cherry picking’ what it wanted in a deal. ‘If this is cherry picking then every trade arrangements is cherry picking,’ she said.
Nationalism and internationalism are said to be alternative reactions to economic globalisation. But, the nation state is valuable because it has proved to be the best way of holding power to account. In Britain, it has also been the champion of liberalism, a system of government that relies on continuous refining of the rules of law and the practice of justice to give everyone the best chance of adding their bit to the advance of civilisation. These values are what many Leave supporters and senior figures in pro-Brexit camps have advocated for years, and it is these values that need to drive the Brexit negotiations over the coming months.