Although I started it, I apologise for prolonging an intercolumnar argument. Matthew Parris (4 February) is surely right that many Brexiteers in past months have been showing signs of anxiety. He attributes this to being ‘secretly, usually unconsciously, terrified that they’ve done the wrong thing’. This may be part of it — it would be a strange person, after making such a momentous decision, who felt no qualms — but I don’t think it is the chief explanation. Our real fear is that, having come so far, we might be cheated of what we thought we had achieved. After the vote on 23 June, many powerful Remain supporters questioned the mandate for leaving, the right of the United Kingdom as a whole (as opposed to its component parts) to leave and the legality of the means. They also attempted to affect the parliamentary arithmetic required. I came across several important Remainers who suggested that leaving should be prevented if possible, and that the possibility was real. Some said darkly that plans for sabotage were afoot, and I could all too readily believe that the brilliant Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, the Remainer who is credited with having invented Article 50 itself, had concealed self-destruct mechanisms inside his own creation. Brexiteers also unexpectedly found themselves with a new Prime Minister who had voted Remain. This, at first, added to doubts. So it was rational to fear losing what had just been gained, against enormous odds, after a fight which, for some people, had gone on for 40 years. What with Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech and US support and huge parliamentary majorities for going ahead, it all feels better now, so one would expect tension to ease a bit. Meanwhile, I note with pleasure that Matthew, in the process of offering Brexiteers a ladder to climb down, gossamer-wove one for himself, admitting (I think for the first time) that Brexit might work.
This is an extract from Charles Moore's Notes, which appears in this week's Spectator