What Boris Johnson should tell the European Union at Brexit summit – Bernard Ingham

Pro and anti-Brexit protesters outside Parliament.
Pro and anti-Brexit protesters outside Parliament.
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GIVEN yesterday’s qualified optimism about a Brexit deal, I have drafted this statesmanlike address for Boris Johnson at tomorrow’s European summit:

“Fellow heads of government,

Boris Johnson at this week's State Opening of Parliament.

Boris Johnson at this week's State Opening of Parliament.

We are, I trust, about to bring the three-year Brexit saga to agreed closure. If so, I thank you for facing up to the democratic wishes of the British people and enabling us to continue to have a co-operative future together.

There will be a collective sigh of relief on Saturday across the EU’s 500m people if the UK Parliament approves our conclusions, thereby enabling us all to focus on other urgent questions.

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If that is how it works out – and I fervently hope it does – I can assure you that the UK is not contracting out of Europe. We are not an isolationist country but an outward-looking and free-trading nation.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at Parliament's state opening - the House of Commons is due to sit this Saturday to debate Brexit.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at Parliament's state opening - the House of Commons is due to sit this Saturday to debate Brexit.

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We seek genuinely to co-operate and trade freely with all competitors and to contribute to the collective defence of the free world. We are not deserting Europe – only a particular kind of Europe that we have come to regard as dangerously undemocratic.

This means that our leaving the EU on agreed terms will not be without some sadness and regret.

Indeed, I firmly believe that if the EC and successively the EU had heeded the advice of my distinguished predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, in her 1988 Bruges speech, we would never have heard of Brexit.

Pro-EU anti-Brexit protesters, including a contingent from Yorkshire, march outside the Houses of Parliament.

Pro-EU anti-Brexit protesters, including a contingent from Yorkshire, march outside the Houses of Parliament.

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In an otherwise staunchly pro-Europe speech she expressed disquiet over the EU’s federal ambition and hoped for a wider, looser Europe of freely co-operating association of nation states.

Well, we have got a wider Europe with the entry, thank goodness, of the former Communist states of central and Eastern Europe, but sadly not a looser one of independent, sovereign nations.

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Margaret Thatcher delivering her landmark Bruges speech in 1988.

Margaret Thatcher delivering her landmark Bruges speech in 1988.

Your determination to achieve ever closer union and integration has been pressed even to the extent of ignoring the views of a number of member-states who have held referenda. They have, in effect, been told to vote again until they come up with the “right” answer.

That tactic was never going to work with 17.4m Britons in favour of Brexit. We are an independent-minded people with a history of standing alone.

History cannot easily be set aside, especially when those trying to do so have no democratic legitimacy. Not one of the 27 EU member-states has yet voted to give up its individual statehood in favour of a European monolith.

So I feel it is my sad duty as, I trust, Britain leaves the EU to urge you to think again and put your faith in the desire of your remaining member-states to work freely together without central, bureaucratic coercion.

It is not as though the EU as a whole is in a robust state. If the EU was a self-confident entity, it would not have allowed Brexit to drag on for three years. As it is, the games played over those years have cemented the determination of a majority of Britons to leave.

It seems to me that you have relied too much on the noisy Europhiles in
our Parliament and country to block Brexit. I find their performance remarkable, since they seem incapable of explaining why we should remain in an institution that makes law to the exclusion of the Westminster Parliament – except, of course, by trying to make our people’s blood run cold with “Project fear”.

This brings me to the future of Europe. The economic, political, cultural and defence security of member states, including the UK, urgently requires us to work together to strengthen the West’s position in the world.

We must not allow Brexit to get in the way. There is neither justification nor common sense in any manufactured difficulties in our future relations post-Brexit.

Instead, we should resolve to serve all our interests in a dangerous world and make things work. You will not find the UK backward in promoting co-operation if there is a similar response.

Let me assure you: I take no pride in leading the UK out of the EU. We would not be in this position if, to repeat, 31 years after Mrs Thatcher’s warning note, we had a different kind of Europe.

But I can promise you with absolute certainty that you will not find us wanting in the co-operation stakes if we all work together – as we must – in that productive spirit.

We all – as all responsible members 
of the UK Parliament know – have much to gain if we do and a lot to lose if we don’t.”