Britain needs a liberal post-referendum plan

Christian May
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London From Above
The campaign to Leave the EU secured victory with a majority of 1,270,000 votes. (Source: Getty)

Does the country feel different to you? Do you feel it stands a little taller in the world or has it already shrunk in status? Whatever your perspective on the referendum result, Britain now finds itself at an historic and unprecedented juncture.

First and foremost, the outcome of this vote must be accepted as the democratic will of the British people.

The campaign to Leave the EU secured victory with a majority of 1,270,000 votes. This is hardly insignificant. There now exists an almighty challenge – and an exhilarating opportunity – to recast Britain’s role in the world as a truly internationalist, liberal, globally-minded trading nation. Such a description may appear to be at odds with the caricature of an angry Brexit voter, and while it’s true that the coalition of voters that delivered a victory for Leave is an uneasy mix of interests, it will not be Nigel Farage who forms the next government.

Boris Johnson is now trying to garner support for a liberal, outward-looking vision of Brexit. It is vital that this instinct prevails in the Tory party, regardless of who wins the leadership. The alternative would be to seek comfort in decline. Leading Brexit campaigner Dan Hannan has already made clear that anyone expecting the levels of immigration to fall after Britain leaves the EU will be disappointed. The focus won’t be on reducing quantity, but on increasing quality. In other words, lowering the barriers that high-skilled non-EU migrants (and their would be British employers) currently face.

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While this grand vision is worked out (and debated through the prism of a Tory leadership election) a more pressing concern weighs on the City: access to the single market and, in particular, retention of the vital passporting rights that allow financial services to operate across European markets. Sadiq Khan has pledged to fight for this and the City’s policy supremo, Mark Boleat, warns that financial services must be allowed access to the single market “without discrimination”. Alas, there is less enthusiasm among EU officials to grant such access and so this vital area of contention must be an immediate priority not just for a future government, but for the one we’re left with now. Osborne’s intervention first thing this morning will come not a moment too soon.

Brexit Britain: What you need to know

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