Friday, June 24, 2016

Reflections on EU Referendum.

June 23rd 2016 will be etched forever into the history of Britain. The people decided in a referendum that they wished their Government to negotiate the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. So did the people of Wales. And so did the people of Powys. I was one of those voters, having been committed to leaving the EU since 1975. I have never signed up to the idea that Britain can be subsumed into an undemocratic bureaucracy. But I was still very surprised by the result, having been certain in my mind that the Remain side would win. 

I had hoped that David Cameron would continue as our Prime Minister for longer. He had already told us he would retire before the 2020 General Election. In reality this would have meant a new Conservative Party Leader being elected in 2018/19. The new leader will now be elected in October. On reflection, the Prime Minister is probably right to leave the hugely complex and difficult challenge of Britain's EU withdrawal to his successor. David Cameron has been an outstandingly good Prime Minister. I have been proud to know him, and to have worked with him. Despite being inexperienced  when he became Leader of the Conservative Party, he developed quickly into a hugely impressive leader and Prime Minister. I will certainly miss his reassuring and dominating presence. 

Inevitably there will be some turbulence. Not surprising after the warnings of Armageddon and catastrophe in 'Project Fear'. When financial markets opened on Friday morning, the FTSE 100 dropped around 8%. The BBC and financial whizz kids went into overdrive. And then the FTSE 100 went up again. "Oh dear, that wasn't in the script". 

Like everyone else, I am nervous, and a little fearful about the future. There is uncertainty, real tension, and threat of political turbulence as well as financial. I do not feel at all celebratory. So many friends and people I respect take a different view from me. However, this is not doubt about the wisdom of the brave wonderful liberating decision we took on the 23rd June. I do feel a sense of great pride in the British people who have voted for democracy. And proud of the voters of Wales and of Powys who also voted to leave the EU. Yet again the British people have showed the world how much they value democracy. Ironically, it has been a Conservative Govt which has given the British people the chance to vote it out of office in 2020 - which it may well do if Labour manage to replace Jeremy Corbyn with a credible leader.

I feel guilty not to have played any part in the actual campaigning. Initially I was opposed to the referendum being held in June, inevitably over-shadowing and influencing the Welsh General Election held in May. And by May I was so disillusioned by the utterly incredible claims of Project Fear, and the counter claims of the Leave campaign, that I could join in. So I just discussed the issue with those who asked my opinion.

I must include a comment about farming, particularly livestock farming. It was my main job for most of my life. There are two issues which are causing concern, a continuation of CAP subsidies and access to markets. I do not think either is a real problem. In our increasingly unstable world, no British Govt will sacrifice food security. If our European neighbours continue to subsidise farming, we will have to ensure that Britain remains competitive. And I think that market realities will dictate that we will be free to sell our produce in the EU. It would be an extraordinary act of self harm for the EU to put barriers in the way of trade. EU countries sell so much more to the UK than we do to them. 

There is so much else I could write about. I may edit later and add important bits I've left out. Not surprising. Last couple of days have been most astonishingly eventful of my 40 years in public affairs. Today, there is the weight of uncertainty, but tomorrow there will be the lightness and freedom that comes with casting off shackles of bureaucracy. 

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