For Brexit – see the wood, not the trees

For Brexit – see the wood, not the trees

For Brexit - see the wood, not the trees

Since 1973 Britain has flourished more than any other EU member. That may be why so many people want Britain to leave the EU and forge ahead – as they see it, unencumbered by the laborious processes, corruption and incompetency of much of the EU system. The debate on Leave or Remain has been distinguished by its selfishness and lack of vision. For a country that built an empire and then, fairly gracefully, gave those it had colonised their freedom this is a poor tribute to those who came before and to those who are to follow.

Britain has a history of leadership. Not all of it is glorious. Like all leaders and innovators mistakes were made, injustices perpetrated. But the island race that dared to take democracy, even-handed law, entrepôt trade and a basic religion of kindness across the world cannot be accused of isolationism. Our boldness led us into some pretty difficult situations but it could never be called cowardice. Courage is one distinction of Britishness.

At the same time there is a quality of decency found in very few other parts of the world. Where else would call off a critical campaign during its last, decisive week to pay tribute to one of its most promising young politicians? What other country would have all the political parties agree not to contest the by-election caused by her death so that the new incumbent will carry on the work of the party she represented? Real standards, not just gestures.

The EU was formed to unite a group of countries that had suffered two devastating wars in half a century. It was to recognise the growing collaboration the world needs to make it a better place for all its citizens. The road to world federalism is via trading, political and social groupings so that we get to know the other members of the group better and learn how to live in harmony with them. Isolation in this context is a denial of the facts of technological life.

Forget the short-term advantages and disadvantages of Leave or Remain. The world will not come to an end as a result of choosing either way. The decision is not about us, it is about our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is, in a very significant way, about the future of the world community. To decide it on the basis of what suits me personally at the moment is to deny the leadership Britain has had, and aims to keep in an unsteady world.

I am British. In any major issue we have always prided ourselves on being able to see the wood not just the trees. That requires standing back from the short-term issues and seeing the vision of a world that those who come after will thank us for creating. Europe is in a mess. It is a clarion call to the British to use their undoubted diplomatic and administrative skills to sort it out. You don’t do that from outside the club.

You do it as its leader.