A sovereign state no less. Oh, happy New Year’s Day 2021.
Boris Johnson will go down in history for his restoration of democracy to this Sceptr’d Isle.
It is all over bar the shouting.
Today in Parliament we shall discover the hardline Remainers – as distinct from the illogical Scottish and Welsh nationalists – and the purest of the pure Eurosceptics.
It is true, as the Prime Minister says, that the devil is in the detail.
But the deal looks likely to pass the Commons today and I cannot believe that the 27 member-states of Europe, not even France led by Emmanuel Macron, will be daft enough to reject it.
Of course, we might have got back more of our fish more quickly, but it will take time to re-build our fishing fleet. And the complicated arrangements for Northern Ireland are not ideal.
But Boris has done better than I ever expected in view of EU intransigence and its vindictive approach to deter others from leaving the bloc.
In one fell swoop he has buffed up his credentials for leading the UK until they positively glisten.
Let us recognse his guts in deciding when to settle.
It reminds me of that day in Fontainebleu in 1984 when Margaret Thatcher amazed her staff by saying snap to “two thirds of a loaf” – i.e. 66 per cent of the cut in the UK contribution to the EC budget she had originally sought.
Let us now put behind us the four and a half years it has taken to fulfil the people’s referendum decision in 2016.
That is par for the EU course – as Mrs Thatcher found in reducing the UK contribution to the EC budget.
My only concern about the outcome is that the deal came as Boris’s Christmas present to the nation and not for the New Year.
I would have put money on Michael Barnier dragging out the talks until tomorrow – New Year’s Eve.
Instead, we got it on Christmas Eve. Brussels, it seems, is going soft.
Let us hope that within the next five years the EU recognises the error of its ways, abandons its federal pretensions and emerges all the stronger as an alliance of freely co-operating kingdoms and republics.
That’ll be the day.
Historic though January 1, 2021 will be, it is no time for euphoria.
We have to make a success of our independence against the background of the worst Covid-19-induced economic setback in the 75 years since the Second World War.
The national debt, now exceeding £2 trillion (thousand billion), is rising. The budget deficit is already stratospheric. Unemployment is soaring. A host of businesses have closed their doors for good.
We have also yet to conquer the pandemic and get Britain returning to something like the normal we knew last January.
But the scientific cavalry has arrived with a vaccine that should progressively lift the siege.
Interest rates and inflation are rock bottom unlike those inherited by Mrs Thatcher in 1979 at 17 and 13.4 per cent respectively.
The unions are not – as they were in the ‘70s and early ‘80s – striking at will, though some union leaders are still besotted with the class war.
We also have a Leader of the Opposition in Sir Keir Starmer whose decision to back the Brexit deal shows he is acutely aware Labour will never make it back to power – short of a Tory catastrophe – unless they present a constructive, responsible approach to the nation’s affairs.
He has his work cut out when the unions are the party’s paymasters and that ogre, Len McCluskey, is already holding him to ransom by withholding its contributions. But he seems to be no pushover.
The genius of our scientists and technologists and our free-trading approach to the world, backed by 58 new post-EU trade agreements, are also major assets as we prepare for 2021 and its new opportunities.
It is now Boris’s job – and ours – to restore the economy, repair our creaking social services and demonstrate to the world we are making the most of our new lease of life.
His historical reputation will be unbeatable if he can lead us to the industrious sunny uplands that he so envisages.
Suddenly his daunting task looks manageable after the most difficult of years.
He has earned our energetic support.
Welcome to the Land of Beginning Again.
A happy, positive and successful New Year recovery to everyone.
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