Four mornings on and the anger is still there. Meeting a friend last night, I’m greeted by ‘hello’, followed by ‘I’m angry’. To take one instance.
Cameron gave a statement in the Commons yesterday. Questioned whether the infamous £350 million a week would all go the NHS, this was ‘a matter for his successor’ was the gist of his reply, and he sat down with a slight smile.
It was the slight smile that worried me, angered me. This was politics at its very worst, playing games at a time of crisis. In the absence of any plan from the Leave side we are heading into an abyss. The Tories would like to delay the negotiations until a new PM is in place. The EU on the other hand cannot afford to delay – uncertainty and contagion are their big concerns. Hollande and the Italian PM Mario Renzi have both emphasised that exit must be processed quickly so that the EU can focus on what should be the biggest issues – fighting terrorism and strengthening borders (and, I’m sure, the wider issues associated with the refugee crisis).
If our government delays the likelihood is that the EU will draw up its own terms and present them to the UK on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. In any negotiation, any normal negotiation, you put your case down, coherently and cogently – and early. Get in there first. Stake out the ground. The way this is playing out it is we who will get staked out.
What I would have thought (and hoped) is that Cameron, playing the statesman not the politician (and taking into account the legacy he’d like to leave), would realise that the only option open to him now is to announce to parliament that the UK will continue to be a member of the EU. Given the referendum result we, the UK, would be seeking further reforms (the referendum result has given him a powerful mandate) but we would remain, not leave. He should remind the House, and the nation, that the result of the referendum is not legally binding, and parliament in all matters is sovereign. There will be an awful lot of flak, more like heavy shelling from some quarters, but the country would be spared a long-drawn-out disaster. All that we’d suffer would be loss of face.
His justification would be watertight: the Leave camp have no plan, economic indicators are dire, our reputation in the world is at serious risk of being terminally damaged, above all the welfare of each and every citizen, of all of us, is threatened if we continue as we are at present.
There have been arguments from the likes of Digby Jones (ex CBI chief) that we could manage very well in the world outside the EU. Up to a point, that could be true. We could function OK, at a lesser level than now, but we would function. But that issue is theoretical.
The real issue is where we are now, and the imperative of taking action now to avoid the chaos ahead.