MY email inbox is becoming a source of great concern to me.
I dedicated nearly a quarter of a century to fighting for Britain’s independence from the EU, yet, six years on from the historic Brexit result, disillusion seems to be creeping into the minds of many who voted for freedom.
The Conservative Government is to blame for this and they deserved to suffer two resounding by-election defeats last Thursday.
I know that Boris Johnson’s administration is battling problems on many fronts and that his parliamentary party is hopelessly divided. But following the Tories’ resounding electoral victory in December 2019, Johnson’s MPs would be wise to remember the message that kept them in power: Get Brexit Done.
I say this because the frustrated members of the electorate who email me daily keep asking why, two-and-a-half years after Johnson’s victory, Brexit has not been completed.
Unless these people start to see some tangible benefits to their country and to their lives, lots of them will simply stay at home at the next election. This is particularly true of voters in Red Wall seats, and abstention en masse (like we saw this week) would surely cost the Conservatives dear.
In the past week, the cross-party Centre for Brexit Policy think tank has tried to shine a light on why so little has been achieved since 2019. Its report, written by politicians and foreign policy specialists including former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, identifies a deep pessimism among London’s Remainer elite about the UK’s standing in the world.
Duncan Smith used the term ‘declinism’ when I spoke to him about this on GB News. It’s very difficult to disagree with this gloomy analysis.
Ever since the Suez Crisis of 1956, much of the Civil Service and the Establishment more generally has operated on the basis that its job is to manage decline.
This explains why so many of those employed by the state to implement policy and apply the Government’s laws fought so hard against Margaret Thatcher’s reforms of the 1980s. Thatcher tried her damnedest to extinguish this negative mentality and partially succeeded. But old habits die hard.
To this day, as a prominent Brexiteer, I receive abuse in the street if I’m around Whitehall during commuting time – from those who can be bothered to turn up to the office, at any rate. These people hate Brexit. They want it reversed.
Yet while their refusal to accept reality is a big problem, that alone does not excuse this Government’s woeful record on Brexit. If the Conservatives are to have any chance of winning the next election, they must keep their 2019 Brexit voters onside. To achieve this, a radical change of attitude and policy is required.
Let me make some positive suggestions. We all remember the hilarious sitcom Yes, Minister about the senior civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby’s attempts to derail his Minister’s policies. A fan of the programme, Mrs Thatcher memorably said in the House of Commons in 1989 that ‘advisers advise and Ministers decide’. That mantra needs to be repeated again and again by Johnson’s cabinet.
I know that bringing the Civil Service to heel will be tough. When the Home Secretary Priti Patel locked horns with Home Office staff she felt were failing in their duties, she was accused of bullying. A media circus ensued.
But the time has come to take on the obstructionists. They need to be told. Boris Johnson prefers a quiet life and tries to avoid conflict. Yet a confrontation is now unavoidable. As an American friend of mine would say, the swamp must be drained.
Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg made a good start in April by leaving notes on absent civil servants’ desks in Whitehall encouraging them to come back to work. This was amusing, but Rees-Mogg will need to show considerably more steel.
His Brexit brief means he carries a heavy burden on his shoulders. He must be prepared to sack or shuffle high-ranking officials who are standing in the way. And he will need the united support of his Cabinet colleagues if he is to succeed.
The Government must begin the job of hacking through the tangled mass of unnecessary EU rules and regulations which stifle enterprise. This will be a hard fight, but it is worth the trouble.
Some Brexit wins would be easier. For example, Britain could set a zero VAT rate on fuel today, rather than keeping the 5 per cent minimum set by our former bosses in Brussels. Indeed, this was promised to the electorate in 2016.Yet the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, refuses to do this. Instead, he prefers to behave like a socialist: taxing, spending and redistributing. Why he does this – and why he is allowed to do it – is a mystery, but his approach is madness.
Cutting VAT on fuel should be just the start. If Sunak reformed other VAT initiatives as well, he would send a clear signal that the UK is serious about capitalising on Brexit.
There is one issue that looms larger than all of the others, however. It may not be fashionable to discuss it in Westminster’s tea rooms, but it is a consistent topic of conversation around the country. I’m thinking of illegal immigration, of course.
The reason the 2016 referendum turnout was higher than expected, and why the Tories secured an 80-seat majority in 2019, is that people care deeply about Britain’s borders being controlled. For this reason, scores of anonymous young men coming illegally to these shores from the safety of France, and then suing the British Government just because they want to stay here, is causing great discontent.
I can think of no greater insult or humiliation to our national sovereignty than a nameless judge in Strasbourg fulfilling the wishes of these uninvited guests by preventing a plane chartered by our Government from taking them to Rwanda for resettlement, as happened this month. In effect, that judge said to the gangs of traffickers who profit from this trade: ‘The UK is open, everything is free, send more people there as soon as you can.’ At no point did he think about the rights of British voters.
Hotels and private rented accommodation all over the country are filling up with illegal immigrants. This alone is estimated to cost taxpayers at least £5 million a day, or almost £2 billion a year. The volume of those crossing the Channel in dinghies over the summer is likely to increase hugely, compounding the problem. Unless this situation is addressed forthwith, the public will give up on Boris Johnson and his Government.
The claim made recently by the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, that a new Bill of Rights will solve this crisis is risible. There is only one solution that will allow us to take back control of our borders: we must leave the European Court of Human Rights and we must complete Brexit.
I can already hear the howls of outrage from the Establishment and the Civil Service as they try to convince people that such a move would be impossible and would condemn Britain to pariah status on the international stage. I have news for the metropolitan elites who spout this stuff: nobody, except you, holds this opinion. You are in the minority.
What people voted for in 2016 was a proper Brexit. They want full sovereignty over our borders. Respecting their wishes will not only achieve this, it will also win Boris Johnson the next General Election.
As a Prime Minister on the ropes who appears to want to remain in power, I would have thought he would listen rather carefully to this message. For although advisers advise and Ministers decide, voters have the final say.