Happy Article 50 day, and many Brexit returns! Today is the first anniversary of Article 50 being triggered and, subsequently, marks exactly one year to Brexit and Britain leaving the European Union.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is off on a whistle stop tour of all four UK nations in an attempt to mark the unity of the union as the Brexit countdown begins in earnest.
May’s busy day is accompanied by an op ed in the Daily Mail titled: “The ordinary British people have made it clear – Brexit MUST be a success”.
In the piece, May stressed that the government has been “working around the clock to make Brexit work for Britain” in the last year.
She says that “this enormous effort is already paying off”, citing the success of the “recent agreement on the implementation period”.
May pointed to stronger-than-predicted economic growth and record levels of employment, and suggests that the path ahead is even brighter.
It’s a future in which we trade freely with friends and partners in Europe and beyond and build on the progress we’ve made as a country over the past few years.
She stressed the next year will be crucial in making Brexit a success, asking the public to work together to “shape the legacy we will leave to our children and grandchildren”.
May ends by saying:
If we put aside our differences and all pull in the same direction we can deliver a Brexit that works for everyone. That’s what people of this country demanded. And that is what we must give them.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, also has an editorial out today, published in the Express. His piece is titled: “Our Brexit journey out of the EU is almost over – a glorious view awaits”.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) March 28, 2018
With this predictable, bombastic tone, Johnson returns to the “sunlit meadows” image of life beyond the European Union that he used during the referendum campaign.
He referenced the booming markets of Asia as the “epicentre of global commerce” that Britain can expect to join when no longer shackled to Brussels.
The picture of Brexit Johnson paints today is brightly coloured, HD-ready and inevitable. Like May, he praised the work that has been done in the last year as laying the foundations for a glorious future.
Like an unstoppable express, we are heading for Brexit and frankly my friends, we can’t arrive soon enough.
Looking ahead, we can already see the contours of the new world that awaits us. Months of painstaking negotiations have started to fill in the canvas.
Johnson takes a slight break from this pastoral vision to rubbish former Labour front-bencher Owen Smith, an outspoken critic of Brexit.
Avert your gaze from that perpetual Labour leadership contender, Owen Smith, who demands a second referendum because his side lost and he wants a re-match.
Johnson also dismisses Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister he once accused of leading a “condescending campaign” to reverse the will of the people.
As it happens, Blair is speaking today at a UK in a Changing Europe event in London.
His focus in the last couple of days has been on the need for a “progressive approach” to migration, as outlined in a new policy paper from Blair’s think tank, but it has also been about stopping Brexit.
The idea is that migratory pressures were the driving force behind the referendum vote and, once solved, it would be better for Britain to remain in Europe.
He said at the event this morning:
I worry about the spirit that we’ve given off since Brexit. What we’ve said about ourselves since Brexit…It doesn’t matter where you go in the world. The rest of the world do not see this as “globally ambitious Britain”.
Professor John Curtice, a political scientist specialising in the study of elections, and Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, will also be speaking at the UK in a Changing Europe event later today.
Earlier this morning, Blair appeared on the Today programme and said that it is not late to stop Brexit, and that hopes of overturning the decision or a second referendum are now “more likely…than a few months ago”.
He said that the “sensible option” would be to review the situation and “take a final decision” once the terms of the decision are made clear.
Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, was also on the Today programme this morning. In line with the campaigning she has done for a second referendum, she said that there should be another vote due to how much the landscape has changed since June 2016.
Once those details are becoming clearer, as the government comes towards the end of the negotiations, then it ought to be up to the people to decide what path, we, the country, take.
The Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is another leader being wheeled out for a media round this morning.
While most of his time has been spent responding to the ongoing accusations of antisemitism within the party – including last night’s news that a key Corbyn supporter backed a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial – he has also had to answer questions about the party’s stance on Brexit.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is also taking part in the Today programme’s countdown to Brexit discussions.
As far as trade goes we will have the ability – which we don’t have at the present time – to negotiate future trade agreements with countries outside the European Union.
We will also have an independent seat on the World Trade Organisation which will give us the ability to shape the global trading environment in a way that we want to see, which is a a more open and more liberal global trading environment to ensure that free trade brings the benefits to the next generation that we’ve enjoyed, including taking a billion people out of poverty in the last generation.
Yesterday Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, suggested that Labour would “probably” vote in favour of the final Brexit withdrawal agreement in the autumn.
This is contrary to shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s assertion on Monday that Labour was seeking to amend the EU withdrawal bill to provide a “meaningful vote”.
McDonnell dismissed Thornberry’s comments as “good old-fashioned British sarcasm” and said that Labour was “nowhere near” being able to vote for the withdrawal deal.
In the view from the other side, Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer used his departure speech last night to make his opinion on Brexit clear.
For us in the outside world, Britain would become, at least in economic terms, irrelevant to international diplomacy.
You would be better off remaining within the EU, or being completely out of it in every way, than leaving yourselves in such a position of weakness and irrelevancy. It would be humiliating for a once great country.