THOSE who thought that Brexit would paralyse Britain appear to be mistaken. Six months after the UK voted to leave the European Union, the country is still trading.
And, while the hard work will not begin until Theresa May triggers Article 50, it’s time to focus on new opportunities, not least with those loyal Commonwealth countries – like Australia – who fought alongside Britain in two world wars and felt aggrieved when Edward Heath turned his back on this sacrifice at the EEC’s inception.
This is illustrated by the recent comments made by Alexander Downer who was Australia’s foreign minister for nearly 12 years and is now his country’s High Commissioner to the UK. Not once, he lamented, did a British Foreign Secretary visit Australia while he was in office between March 1996 and December 2007. “Instead of sulking, we’ve been forging new markets in Asia and North America,” he added. “It’s been hard going but we’ve stuck at it...I can immodestly say we’ve done well.”
Mr Downer clearly wishes this country well and says a free trade policy between Britain and Australia is a priority. The same cannot be said about the EU, and highfalutin UK academics at the UK in a Changing Europe think-tank, who continue to denigrate Leave voters and accuse supporters of “living on Fantasy Island”.
What they don’t seem to realise is that voters only took this unprecedented step because they were fed up at being told what to do by an overtly-bureaucratic European Union which has proved totally incapable of reform. If its leaders had showed a sliver of humility, and accepted the legitimacy of this country’s concerns on issues like immigration, David Cameron might have been able to put a more meaningful reform package to the electorate.
No wonder 54 per cent of people, according to a new poll, want Mrs May to accelerate Brexit so the country can embrace ‘old friends’ again. Far from voters regretting the decision of June 23, they feel more than vindicated when academics and Remain-supporting politicians resort to insults in the vain hope that the result can be reversed. It can’t.
DESPITE their vast experience and knowledge of home affairs, Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke and Jacqui Smith’s joint call for the prison population to be halved will not be universally welcomed by the law-abiding majority.
After all, these three senior politicians were all prominent members of respective governments who always sought to legislate their way out of trouble by promising ever more draconian custodial sentences.
Significantly, they also don’t identify the type of offences that they would like to see treated more leniently, a major omission on their part. And this at a time when the Government is considering life sentence for dangerous drivers whose recklessness leads to the deaths of innocent individuals.
That said, they make a profound point when they say that nearly half of adult inmates are re-convicted within a year of their release from custody. Despite Michael Howard, a former home secretary, famously saying that ‘prison works’, it clearly does not in this instance.
And this is key. Unless a way can be found to tackle this culture of reoffending, the public will demand ever stiffer sentences, Ministers will accede to these requests and prisons will lurch from one crisis to another because of overcrowding. It’s a self-perpetuating vicious circle.
A message for all: Brendan Cox’s Christmas tribute
THE alternative Christmas Day message on Channel 4 has, on more than occasion, been irreverent. It’s certainly not the case this year after it was confirmed that it will be delivered by Brendan Cox.
It will be an emotional oration at the end of a year which will always be remembered for the murder of his much-missed wife Jo as the Batley & Spen MP arrived at a constituency surgery in Birstall.
The thoughts of all will be with Mrs Cox’s family, not least her two young children, as they spend their first Christmas without their irreplaceable mother, sister, daughter and inspiration. Yet it’s also so typical of the family’s fortitude that they strive, in the heartfelt words of the MP’s widower, to “remember how lucky we were to have Jo in our lives for so long – and not how unlucky we were to have her taken from us”.
However, given Mrs Cox’s humanitarianism and continuing dangers to world stability, this message which deserves the widest possible audience. As Mr Cox said himself, the need to defend tolerance “isn’t someone else’s problem”, but should be a matter for all.