Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
I will never forget the feeling of complete joy and elation on the morning of June 24th, 2016. I looked around at my friends and colleagues. There were cheers, gazes of disbelief, tears of joy, embraces. We had achieved the impossible. We had taken on the EU, the IMF, Whitehall, the global political establishment – and won.
In the early hours of the morning, as the sun rose over the Houses of Parliament, and one by one news networks around the world declared that Brexit had won the day, I remember thinking to myself that genuine political change was possible. That things didn’t have to be the way that they are they were. That when the people were given the choice between freedom and membership of an undemocratic, unaccountable political project- they always chose freedom.
There was never any doubt in my mind that British politicians would respect the decision that people made that day. Britain was a country I had hugely admired all my life, so much so that I made the decision to move here as soon as I had enough money saved for the journey. This was the country of Shakespeare, Magna Carta, common law, and the mother of all Parliaments.
I believed wholeheartedly that this was a nation which would act with integrity, and implement the largest democratic mandate in its history.
At around 5am, Michael Gove came into HQ. He gave us a cheerful and honest speech about what a campaign this had been, and why we should feel pride in what we have achieved. Later that day, Liam Fox wrote a message on our whiteboard: ‘Heroes one and all. Don’t just read history, write it’.
It’s been over two years since the vote. Progress has been made on negotiating a deal, although a no deal scenario is looking more and more likely. The EU have predictably tried to squeeze as much as they can out of Britain. Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, John Major, and the usual gang of trendy celebrities have still refused to accept the result, continuing calls for a second referendum. Public opinion hasn’t shifted significantly.
We’re in the final months before Britain’s departure. The question of whether we should leave the EU has been well and truly settled – but the question of how is down to Theresa May and her Cabinet.
Many of the leading politicians who campaigned for Brexit now have a seat at the top table. It’s up to them, now, to keep the Prime Minister honest and see this through. Resigning at this late stage would be a mistake, in my opinion. There’s no guarantee that May wouldn’t replace Brexiteer colleagues with yes men and push through a deal that keeps us in the EU by the back door.
With Chequers firmly rejected by the EU, the question is now whether Britain leaves with a Canada plus deal, a Norway-style arrangement, or with no deal at all.
There is growing support from backbenchers such as Nick Boles for a ‘Norway for now’ option, which would see Britain propose temporary EEA membership, to make time for a better deal to be agreed. This option doesn’t resolve the Northern Ireland problem and could easily result in indefinite membership of the EU’s Single Market. If it were possible and practical to have two negotiations with the EU – the first agreeing a Norway deal, the second a harder Brexit – it would postpone our departure for years, and simply kick the problem into the long grass. Furthermore, the Conservative Party wouldn’t be trusted for decades to deliver on any manifesto commitment.
There are only two options now which would allow Britain to take back control of laws, borders, money and trade. Either the border issue can be resolved with the EU and Britain agrees to a Canada-style free trade agreement, or we leave without a deal.
To those Brexiteers in Cabinet who campaigned with me for Brexit – Gove, Fox, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Penny Mordaunt, and Andrea Leadsom – please don’t let us down now. You have a voice at the top table.
Whilst you may feel pressure from those in London, from the less than impartial media, and from your colleagues who refuse to accept the referendum result, don’t lose heart. There are millions of people who voted for Britain to become an independent nation, and we are all behind you.
Don’t allow May to sign the UK up to a deal that leaves us in a never ending transition period, or keeps us in the EU’s single market or customs union. Resist the temptation to opt for a lazy Norway option which would completely betray what we advocated during the referendum.
We campaigned alongside each other to take back control of Britain’s destiny. It’s in your hands now. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. And please don’t let us down.