It seems I have adopted a rather controversial view about Brexit: that, perhaps, all the partisans – leavers and remainers – should bury our differences and work together. That’s proving more difficult than it should be. No one in politics likes to concede defeat, particularly if they secretly dislike some of their opponents.
The EU referendum opened a chasm in our nation. Two different views: Britain versus Europe, migration versus integration; internationalism versus national identity, metropolitan versus small town, management versus the factory floor. The outcome was not just a shock, and for many it was hard to accept. The European Union, if not loved by many, was taken for granted as part of our political architecture. The “great repeal bill” is the latest staging ground of this fight. Really an adoption bill, it aims to transfer lots of EU legislation into UK law. Businesses, citizens and government agencies need a legal basis to conduct their activities – and this adoption process is essential to a smooth Brexit. But weak governments with complex bills are easy prey. When Theresa May went to the country in April, she claimed she needed a larger majority lest the opposition parties derail the process. Now it is her own benches to which she is casting worried glances.
I campaigned for remain. And I want the UK to retain close ties to Europe and keep many of the benefits of easy trade, workers’ rights and co-operation. But I also recognise that managing migration – understanding public concerns beyond the big cities – will have to be part of any deal. This will require a tailor-made solution for the UK. But to start with businesses, citizens and government agencies need a legal basis to conduct their activities. This great adoption of EU law is essential to a smooth Brexit.