Grantham Journal Column – Friday 20th July 2018

BREXIT has dominated the news cycle since the referendum and recent weeks have seen the emotions run high on all sides of the debate. Since the Chequers announcement last week all eyes have turned to Theresa May, her cabinet, and more generally, parliament for the reaction of those elected to represent us.

It is now 18 months since the Prime Minister famously outlined her 12 point plan for exiting the European Union. Since that speech, it is hard to avoid the creeping sense of pain brought about by an intransigent negotiating adversary, the EU, and the hard realities of delivering the public’s choice to leave the union.

Leaving aside the detail, for many on both sides of the debate the issue boils down to trust. Trust in elected politicians to respect the decision and equally politicians trusting the public to make the right decision. Historically, many in power have adopted a paternalistic approach to governing, this is often expressed by phrases such as “but no one voted to make themselves poorer”. In truth this statement misses the point, the public were asked to make a decision on a topic which has divided people for over a generation and extends beyond one’s own financial position. We need national politicians to step out from the Westminster bubble and appreciate that the driving factor for most leave voters was to ‘take back control’. The PM herself recognised this in her 12 point plan (Point 2. Control of our own laws) yet now I fear this is being lost in the swamp of propaganda and threat that is being thrown at us on a daily basis.

Project Fear is undoubtedly an establishment led ploy to undermine confidence in ourselves as individuals to be masters of our own destiny but moreover to undermine confidence in UK PLC. Having spoken to people across the pond they are bewildered that we are so uncertain in our own potential. When did the nation of Churchill and Thatcher start to worry that we needed someone to hold our hand to negotiate trade deals or to be heard on the world stage?

Here in Grantham, almost 60% of people voted to leave the European Union, this represents a majority of people who, contrary to the media line, knew exactly what they were voting for – they voted to leave the European Union and all that entails. That does not mean, for one second, that we live in a sea of Little Englanders who pine for a return to Lord Salisbury’s splendid isolationism, quite the contrary, it means we are a town with a rich heritage of innovation and invention that is confident to look beyond the arbitrary borders of Europe and see the worldwide opportunities.