The UK leaves the European Union at 11pm tonight. For some of you this will be moment of real joy; for others real sorrow and anguish. But we are in this together and I hope some of the division we have seen will begin to recede with the passage of time. I have been impressed both by the displays of friendship and love from our European neighbours, and by the magnanimity shown by some of the leading Brexiteers like Steve Baker MP.
As Winston Churchill said, this isn’t the end, but it is the end of the beginning. Nothing will change in the short term as we enter a transition period until the end of the year. But after that Brexit really begins. What it actually means will now be defined by the future relationship we will agree with the EU, and our trade talks with other countries. These will all have an impact on our economy, and on other issues like Scottish nationalism and the future of Northern Ireland.
From what we know so far from the Government there is likely to be significantly more friction in terms of trade with the rest of the EU, but the UK will still be an open, globally-orientated economy. Changes to immigration are likely to mean fewer people coming here from the EU but more coming from the rest of the world. My work in Parliament will be to ensure that the UK is a country that has the highest product and environmental standards, worker’s rights, and is a world leader on tackling the climate emergency.
There isn’t a precedent or a period of our history we can easily compare this to. The UK went from being at the head of a vast global empire to being a major player in the EU with only around 20 years in between. We’ve never really been on our own before and the world today is heavily polarised between the economic superpowers of the USA, China and the EU. Whether you see this as a major opportunity or a major challenge will likely depend on how you voted, but we must find a way to adjust to this new position and make a success of it.
As a country we have many things we can take great pride in. Let’s build on that as we embark on this new phase in our history.