My Lords, it looks like Brexit is effectively over, thanks to the mature good sense of the British people and the British Parliament. The question now is: what next?
Secondly, we need urgently a plan to rebuild Britain and to tackle the social crisis that led to Brexit. There must be a real end to austerity: we need to build houses, improve the NHS and train our young people, especially those who do not go to university. We need a federal constitution for the United Kingdom and a new settlement for England, which is currently run like a colony from Whitehall.
Thirdly, we must rebuild Britain’s place in Europe. We need to lead, not leave. We must stop, once and for all, being half in and half out, and fulfil the vision of our country’s greatest leader, Winston Churchill, who saved Europe and inspired the European Union—a free union of free peoples that has successfully promoted the peace and prosperity of Europe for two generations, and which we are taking for granted at our peril.
I was recently in Dublin discussing the consequences for Ireland of Brexit. On the wall of the General Post Office, scene of the bloody 1916 Easter Rising against Britain, are these words of Seamus Heaney:
“History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme”.
Today, we have a once in a lifetime moment to do the right thing for our country.