Sir Nicholas Soames is the Conservative MP for Mid Sussex.
Reading my old friend Iain Duncan Smith’s latest ConservativeHome column is like watching an arsonist return to the scene of his crime because the flames aren’t big enough.
Iain needs to realise that we’ve fought the referendum and we’ve had the result – his side won. Some of his Leave colleagues are now sitting around the Cabinet table. They need to be supporting the Prime Minister with her Brexit plan and not looking for some phantom “continuity remain” element.
The British Government is now embarked on its biggest constitutional and political foreign policy endeavour since World War Two. At the end we will no longer be EU members but we will have some form of ongoing relationship with the EU and its continuing 27 member states.
We will have a new immigration and new trade policy, and we will need to have demonstrated that we are not turning our backs on the world but embracing it in a new chapter of our proud British history.
If anyone is “pouring vitriol” it isn’t me, Iain, it’s those who accuse anyone who agrees Parliament should have a vote on Article 50 as trying to undermine the June result, and who describes the judges in the Article 50 case as enemies of the people.
The latest trick is to describe anyone who talks about the need for interim arrangements if we don’t negotiate every last detail by March 2019 as trying to string out the exit process – and this includes an attack on our Prime Minister, who quite reasonably said at the CBI conference this week that she understood business doesn’t want a cliff-edge when leaving the EU.
I welcome moves by our Ministers to bring in those who can offer their experience in the fields of trade or law. We wouldn’t fight a conflict without our armed services and other professionals, so why would we re-shape Britain’s presence in the world without sufficient numbers of civil servants or trade negotiators?
We wouldn’t embark on a battle without a set of objectives, so why would we ask our government not to be clear, at least in their own mind, about our future dealings with the single market, the customs union, movement of labour and security co-operation arrangements?
The referendum campaign did not show politicians at their best, and some of the hyperbole will have done considerable damage. I think the public has low tolerance for a group of politicians telling Britain, yet again, what they are to think.
What is happening now is that those affected by June 23rd are demanding to be heard. Not the armchair pundits, but the businesses from all over the UK: manufacturing, finance, agriculture, services of every kind; small, medium and large, the sort of places where people work, and where and what has been decided has a real impact on them day in, and day out. Government wants to hear from them, and is reaching out to do so.
So why close down the arguments and options? Let’s listen to them shall we? Before we seek to box anyone in with what we think is in their interests, let’s listen to what those at the sharp end have to tell us.
It’s time for everyone who really cares about this wonderful country of ours – and I mean really cares, not talks about sovereignty but meaning only their approved kind of taking control back – to put aside their differences and support our Prime Minister and our Chancellor and everyone in Whitehall as they embark on this mammoth exercise.
Anyone who thinks over forty years of negotiating with and building links with the EU can be undone in a matter of months is suffering from a serious delusion. This is going to be a long haul.