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Brexit: reasons to be cheerful

A symposium on the benefits of leaving the EU

2 July 2016

9:00 AM

2 July 2016

9:00 AM

Noel Malcolm

It may sound both Pollyannaish and paradoxical to say this, but leaving the EU will enable us to have stable, friendly, cooperative relations with all our EU neighbours. Being cooped up in a dysfunctional system, where so much depends on backroom arm-twisting and competing for favours in a zero-sum game, doesn’t produce stable friendships. For those of us who feel (as I do) like real Europeans, it will be so much better to be the friendly next-door neighbour than the unwanted in-law in the quarrelling family home.
Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

Tony Abbott

I was one of those overseas worthies who advised against Brexit — in my case because the EU needed the UK more than vice versa — whom British voters cheerfully told to mind our own business. Now that the British people have spoken, it’s important to make the most of escaping the suffocating and unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy. It will be vastly easier for Britain to do trade deals on its own than as part of a bloc where all 28 countries have to agree. Britain is the world’s fifth-largest economy and it’s in every country’s interest to trade freely with it. Australia should fast-track a UK free trade agreement. There is no country on earth that Australians feel closer to and this is a chance for our countries to build a great future together.
Tony Abbott is a former prime minister of Australia.

Charles Guthrie

Military operations are badly run when steered by committee, which is why the European Union’s defence ambitions are alarming. The EU’s 28 countries have different policies and attitudes, all of which will want their say in planning and decision-making. This setup makes operational planning without clear leaders (which Nato has) a nightmare. What one needs so often is quick action and we now have a tremendous opportunity to get closer to the countries that really matter. Take, for example, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada — countries that really are prepared to fight when the chips are down. Three of them, Canada excepted, are already in an alliance called ANZUS. We should think of similar alliances. It’s all very well saying that we shouldn’t be global policemen, but problems are global now and becoming more so. We mustn’t be like Tony Blair and dash in where we needn’t, but Britain needs more reach than we have had of late. We now have a great opportunity to address this.
Field Marshal Charles Guthrie was Chief of the General Staff from 1994 to 1997.

David Deutsch

Research in fundamental science in the UK is pre-eminent in Europe, and includes wonderful collaborations with partners in the EU and worldwide. All this can now be made even better. Existing EU funding for scientific research in the UK can and should be replaced, at very small cost, but we should also ensure that the diversity of funding criteria is maintained or increased. Among other things, this could be done by distributing the replacement funds through independent entities such as the Royal Society, rather than the research councils. Universities should make it as easy as possible for the best students and academics from all over the world to come to the UK, and the government should encourage this and immediately declare that they will be welcome to come, and that all existing residents who are EU citizens will be welcome to remain.
Professor David Deutsch FRS is pioneer of the quantum theory of computation and author of The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity.

Martin Howe

The European Court of Justice uses its doctrines to expand EU law into ‘ever wider fields’ to coerce our courts into disregarding the laws of our democratically elected parliament. No other trading bloc in the world coerces its members in this way, or imposes a system of law which penetrates into national courts and overrules national laws. Our new relationship with the EU can end that and work towards true cooperation. We can now return to the well-tested principles of the common law as interpreted by our own courts, applying statute laws made by people we elect.
Martin Howe QC is a barrister specialising in EU law.

Bertie Armstrong

Recovery of control of fishing within the UK’s 200-mile limit is the grand Brexit prize. When in 1973 we joined the EC, stewardship of our waters and fishing regulation was placed in the collective hands of Europe. Twelve other nations now fish in our waters, taking half of all the fish. Control can now be returned and there will be no repeat of the overfishing mistakes of history. While centuries of sharing fish will no doubt continue, the UK will, once again and at last, be responsible for its own waters.
Bertie Armstrong is chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

Philippa Stroud


The EU referendum vote — 48 per cent to 52 per cent — sounded a warning: our country is divided, and we need to bring it back together. The social divide seen in the voting results was stark. A great many of those who voted for Brexit feel they have been left behind. Many of them were low-paid, but not necessarily on the minimum wage. Many haven’t had a pay rise for many years, and can just see things getting tougher for them and their children. They live in communities directly affected by pressure on schooling, on the health service and on wages. We can hope that the Brexit vote was an instruction not simply for Britain to leave the EU, but an instruction to Westminster to listen to their views.
Baroness Stroud of Fulham is chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice.

Rohan Silva

I voted Remain, but the truth is it’s very difficult and expensive to hire people with tech skills from outside the EU. A points-based immigration system that used technology to make the system cheaper and more efficient could be a boon for the tech industry, which relies on attracting talent from a highly mobile global pool. If you want to hire American, Indian or Chinese talent into the tech industry, and we do, there’s genuine reason for optimism.
Rohan Silva is former senior policy adviser to David Cameron.

Mick Hume

The referendum result is a triumph for free speech and a smack in the eye for the culture of ‘you-can’t-say-that’. For years the elitist prigs have told us that certain issues — like immigration — cannot be discussed. That has blown up in their faces. And if Brexit does happen it will mean the end of the rule of illiberal people like Vera Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, who recently told us that ‘the internet is for free speech, not hate speech’, i.e. free speech only in so far as it expresses ideas they agree with.
Mick Hume is a free-speech activist and the author of Trigger Warning.

Theodore Dalrymple

No one wants to be treated by a dog-tired doctor, but even less does he want to be the parcel in the medical game of pass-the-parcel that is now commonplace in our hospitals. The European Working Time Directive has transformed doctors into proletarian production-line workers, much to their dissatisfaction with their work and to the detriment of their training and medical experience. It means that doctors no longer work in proper teams, patients don’t know who their doctors are and doctors don’t know who their patients are. The withdrawal of the directive would improve the situation. Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist.

Darren Gratton

Once we leave the European Union, businesses like mine will be able to sell in pounds and ounces once again. My customers would like that option and we’d be happy to oblige.
Darren Gratton is a butcher in Barnstaple.

Mark Lehain

As a secondary school principal, I’m hoping Brexit means we can recruit teachers more easily from the rest of the world — particularly from the Commonwealth, whose education systems are very similar to ours. I’ve seen great candidates slip through my fingers before, and staff have to return overseas, because of the bias against non-EU citizens in our visa system. That bias would only have become worse had we stayed in the EU. It will be wonderful to be able to treat teachers from around the world equally and fairly. Children will benefit.
Mark Lehain is principal of Bedford Free School.

Selina Scott

When I appeared on the Channel 4 Brexit debate on the eve of the referendum I was rubbished by many of the participants for suggesting that if we regained the right to make our own laws by leaving the EU, we could repeal the barbarous practice of the live export of animals. The excuse has always been that Britain was powerless to prevent this because of Brussels. It makes me and millions of others in the UK feel sick to think of the hell our sheep and cattle endure being shipped across Europe without adequate food and water. I’m pleased to say that while the political wonks thought it was a marginal subject for debate, the public didn’t. I have had hundreds of emails of support. Now at last we can make civilised laws to spare these terrified animals. Selina Scott is a television presenter and a mohair goat farmer.

James MacMillan

Karol Wojtyła, one of the greatest Europeans of recent time, called for a ‘Europe of the spirit’ so that the continent could be a true ‘common home’ filled with the joy of life. He was ignored and disdained, of course, by our political elites, who have a very different concept of what Europe should be. Music is the most spiritual of the arts, and musicians were Europe’s first internationalists and advocates of that common good. I hope we can continue contributing to how Europe shapes its future, even when the EU seems part of its past. The spiritual, moral and artistic patrimony that makes Europe ‘Europe’ will outlive any transient political twists and turns.
James MacMillan is a composer.

Susan Hill

I’m looking forward to being English or British first and foremost, and proud of the fact, and after that, a citizen of the Commonwealth and of the world, and to being delighted that world includes Europe, our continent, and that we are still a part of it. I’m looking forward to waking up in the morning knowing that there is a job to be done — taking our country back from an inefficient, monolithic, bloated EU that is no longer fit for purpose — and that we have everything to play for. Well, other than the European Championships.
Susan Hill is a novelist and playwright.

Christopher Howse

The referendum count was exhilarating because it turned the world upside-down. Since then, the greatest comfort has been to realise how little people’s lives are occupied with politics. The country runs itself and crowds pass along the pavements with moderate civility. People hurry home to tend gardens, play bowls, sing in choirs. Amateur astronomers scan the heavens, which remain out of reach of meddling politicians. It is a sign of normality that citizens still do not count their blessings that they can do all this in peace.
Christopher Howse is the author of The Train in Spain.

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