Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. British politics is dominated by Brexit. Coverage, in whatever medium, of British politics is dominated by the subjects. Comments and views are coloured at every turn by whether they are a Brexiteer or a Remainer. The worst insult on one side that can be made about someone is that they are a Remainer or, even worse, a Remoaner. Any hope that the public debate on Britain’s future post EU membership could be at all elevated seems to be increasingly forlorn. The current crop of senior politicians, and those that report on them, seem to be stuck up to the axles in the bog that is Brexit. The current tone of the discussion is thoroughly wearying and negative.
Britain is on course to leave the European Union. A deal will be done. We will pay some money to access things we want access to, we will honour our obligations, and we will continue as appropriate economic, military and diplomatic co-operation. Neither our island nor the European continent are going anywhere physically anytime soon. We will deal with our near neighbours across the full range of our, and their, interests. There will be much hot air generated and wind expended over the next few months which will in turn generate breathless reporting and tremors in the markets. None of it should add up to a row of beans. What is much more important, and much more interesting, is what comes next.
Over half of Conservative MPs now sitting in the House of Commons are younger than 50 years old. For them their personal and political futures lie in a post Brexit world. The great battles over Europe that have dominated Britain’s politics and all its political parties are mainly a thing of the past, not the future. The faces of those who have led the battles are familiar, yet somehow fading. Whatever the result had been the leaders of the winning side would not have earned laurels and popularity. Britain’s membership of the EU has been fraught and difficult from the start. The decision to leave was clear but not overwhelming. The leaders of the winning leave campaign have not become popular political heroes. Those that conduct the Brexit deal will not receive thanks and acclaim.
But Britain’s vote to Brexit signalled a great moment of political change, and change in many other areas too. One of these will be the passing of a political generation for whom Britain’s membership of the European Union has been the dominating and defining issue. The next generation of politicians is, as next generations always are, keen to move on and up and to address the new challenges and opportunities that are presenting themselves.
The parliamentary Conservative Party increasingly resembles a pressure cooker with a huge amount of pent up frustrated energy and ambition. The recent elections for Select Committee chairmanships gave a small indication of the change that is on the way. There is strong support among MPs for the Prime Minister to be allowed to deliver a balanced, workable and deliverable Brexit. There is much less support for, and patience with, many of the Prime Minister’s most senior colleagues, many of whom are seen as figures from a passing era of politics who should deliver the best Brexit possible before passing off the stage.
Brexit, in whatever form, will mark a new era of opportunity and challenge for Britain. It will be both exciting and nail biting. The seizing of the new opportunities and the squaring up to the new challenges will be done by those from the next generation of politicians who can set out the vision and inspire the confidence necessary. We are embarking on a new era.