When Theresa May first used the expression “Brexit Means Brexit” it meant “Britain voted to leave the EU, therefore Britain will leave the EU under my leadership”.
Today “Brexit means Brexit” is merely a reiteration of what we’ve already been told. We know we will be leaving the EU, but how?
To put another way, Brexit means Brexit, but what does Brexit mean?
It matters that Leave won
While we can’t know what the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU will be, what objectives can we expect?
The answer should be found in the objectives of the winning side.
The 17.4 million who voted for Brexit did so in order to achieve particular aims. To honour the referendum result, the government must work to achieve those aims.
What Brexit should mean
The most important themes of the Leave campaign were sovereignty, independence, immigration control, and trade and cooperation between democratic nation states (as apposed to through giant blocs).
– Britain is leaving the EU, but remains part of Europe. It should continue to trade and cooperate with its European allies
– Britain will be a strong voice for free trade. It will practise what it preaches by signing trade deals with countries across the world as an independent country
– Britain must regain its sovereignty, with the government regaining control over areas of UK law which had been given up to Brussels
– British withdrawal from the ECHR and the ECJ, with parliament establishing a British Bill of Rights. The law of the land is to be decided by judges in the UK
– Britain must regain control over its borders to the EU 27. Net immigration is to be brought back down to reasonable levels – from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands (as promised by the government)
– Britain takes back control of British waters, thereby breathing life back into the UK fishing industry
Finally, some things the government must do based on what has emerged from the campaign:
– Improve the employment opportunities of “left behind” working class voters in deprived areas such as in the North of England
– Invest more in those areas which had been important recipients of EU funding (science, farming, deprived areas in Wales…)
– Preserve the Union against attacks from Nicola Sturgeon, a politician for whom Brexit is not a source of regret but a tool to ratchet up resentment of and antagonism towards England with the aim of breaking up the Union
– If there is to be another “once in a generation” independence referendum, run a positive campaign for the union. Voters understandably don’t appreciate intimidation tactics of Project Fear.