Good-bye Europe? And good-bye who else?
Britain has voted to leave the European Union by a small majority. A shadow has fallen across Europe and world. The work of actually leaving now has to start. It may take some time. The other members of the EU will not like our decision. But they need to keep trading with us. There are treaties to unwind and new ones to be signed. Many of the EU directives that have created Britain’s laws will now change. And a sharply divided country must be workably reunited to face the future on its own.
Is it an unmitigated disaster? Of course not. Life will go on. But it will change. The next British Government will have to ask itself what the “leave” vote was all about. Europe may not be their only answer. It will conclude that it was mainly about immigrants. Leaving will not stop migrants from trying to settle in Europe. Operating outside the EU will enable Britain to have its own immigrant policy but it will still have to enforce that policy. The world is not about to shoot children and pregnant women crossing a border, is it? I do hope not.
The Prime Minister has resigned. It was inevitable that he would do so. Britain will now need a new Prime Minister, someone who unites rather than divides, someone who will carry out the wish of the people. But can he know what that wish is? Is what the British want attainable? Is what any developed nation in the world wants attainable? Is happiness attainable? If so, how? The incoming Prime Minister has a daunting task ahead of him. I hope he will approach it with the sincerity and gravitas it deserves. No clowning, please.
If I was aspiring to be the next Prime Minister of Britain what would I try to do? First, I would ask voters what they want for their grandchildren. Not for themselves, not for their children but for their grandchildren. Second, I would ask them if they are prepared to make sacrifices now for those grandchildren in the future. If not, I, too, would resign. Sooner or later someone has to stand up and speak for the future. Now is the moment to do so.
Third I would ask them what they are prepared to put into that future for their grandchildren. Demands are fine but contributions are what is needed. Our rights are other people’s liabilities. It’s time we recognised that, in the full sense of the word. I suspect ‘leave’ has been about ‘more for me’. It isn’t going to happen. More for me means worse for someone else. Is that what I am prepared to see in the mirror each morning? I don’t think so.
Finally I would ask them if their grandparents would applaud their answers to these questions. Continuity is what has made us a fantastic species. That and the ability to develop fast. Continuity is the emotional anchor to which our lives and therefore our futures are attached.
A shadow has fallen across Europe and the world. It is not the darkness of night but the clouds of impending storm. If we are to build Jerusalem not just in England’s green and pleasant land but in the lands of everyone who deserves a decent life we must do so from a position of personal standards, personal responsibility and a future that contains more than just what we want.
These are the only sure foundations of a nation’s future. Or of the world’s.