The Brexit debate is over – or, at least, it should be. Boris Johnson winning his stonking majority in December ought to have been the final nail in the coffin of the Remain campaign. We left the EU in January, and the material exit date of 31 December 2020 has been set in stone, both politically and legally.
This should, then, be the point at which we begin to move on as a nation. The Brexit micro-era is over, so politics can return to some semblance of normality. We can refocus on domestic priorities like schools, the NHS, social care and violent crime. Meanwhile, the relevant government departments and Downing Street aides work away quietly carving out Britain’s place in the post-Brexit world, making that outward-looking global vision that we have heard so much about into reality.
Excruciatingly, though, those previously on the Remain side of the debate are simply refusing to move on. Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Labour leadership contender Lisa Nandy have both leapt on coronavirus hysteria as an excuse to call for the government to extend the transition period and, in effect, delay our exit from the EU yet again, for reasons that remain unclear.
Worse still, the all-but-certain next Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer – who was almost single-handedly responsible for the People’s Vote campaign going mainstream – waited until he was the clear frontrunner in the leadership contest to drop the bombshell that he is not opposed to the idea of campaigning to re-join the EU. Remainers of all stripes are making fools of us and themselves by refusing to concede to the catalogue of democratic mandates that has, at long last, led to Brexit getting done.
How can they fail to see that people simply do not want to talk about this any longer? How blind, how hopelessly shrouded in the thick veil of the Westminster bubble does one have to be to not notice how profoundly fed up of Brexit discourse the general public is? This fact is agonisingly obvious to the rest of us, who have waited years for the establishment to realise that the country was not going to change its mind, and is only going to send the popularity of those select few resilient Remainers tumbling.
Last year’s general election was an extraordinary expression of an unprecedented level of nationwide frustration. The Labour party was so desperate to distract from its attempts to delay Brexit indefinitely that it manufactured a crisis in which the orange grinch from across the pond was coming to steal our NHS, and ended up losing their heartlands as working-class voters flocked en masse to the mop-haired Etonian and his three-word manifesto.
‘Get Brexit done’ is the simplistic message that ushered in the landslide Conservative victory. For years, we talked about nothing but Brexit. Three and a half years on from the referendum, with no end in sight to the postponements Remainers insisted were absolutely necessary, vast swathes of the electorate did something they had never done before by voting Tory.
Even to the passive observer, this is clearly indicative of enormous levels of frustration. The children of miners were willing to vote for the party of Thatcher because they were so incredibly furious that politicians’ ceaseless dilly-dallying was stopping Britain from leaving the European Union.
For the likes of Labour and the Lib Dems to insist on continuing to talk about this and resurrect the debate over Brexit is, therefore, startlingly myopic. In vote after vote in recent years, British voters have politely declined the opportunity to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum.
The careers of those politicians who staked their flags on Remain with the most vigour have now disintegrated. The likes of Bercow, Grieve, Gauke, Stewart, Soubry, Umunna and Swinson have all been gracelessly booted out of Parliament and replaced by the likes of Dehenna Davison, the new Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, one of dozens of enthusiastic young Leavers now gracing the government benches. Starmer and co would do well to glance across the chamber and notice that fact.