Julian’s York Press Column – Referendum Reaction and Leadership Contest
July 7, 2016
It has now been two weeks since the referendum on our membership of the European Union. It was always going to be close, with the British people voting to leave the European Union by 52 to 48 per cent; once again the pollsters it wrong.
With such a tight result there will inevitably be a large minority of people who are disappointed by the outcome, which was demonstrated by the anti-Brexit march in York on Saturday. Emotions ran high during the campaign, with both the Leave and Remain camps resorting to more and more sensationalist claims.
The truth is that I was very disappointed by both of the official campaigns and that is why, despite declaring that I would be voting to leave in a personal capacity, I did not directly campaign with Vote Leave. It seemed to me that both sides were always looking to out-do each other with new earth shattering statistics or gospels of doom.
But the British people have spoken, and they have said that Britain’s future should lie outside of the EU. I said before the vote that whichever way the result fell it must be respected. There have been some calls for a second referendum or for Parliament to block Britain leaving the EU by the back door. As someone who believes in democracy first and foremost, I find that neither of these options are in any way acceptable and are fundamentally undemocratic.
After the result was announced we saw the pound weaken and share prices fall as was expected in the event of a leave vote. Markets inherently dislike uncertainty so this reaction should not come as a surprise to anyone. I believe that the price we pay in the short-term will be far outweighed by the long-term benefits of leaving the EU. We have already seen the FTSE 100 rebound to an 11 month high, although I expect volatility to continue for the immediate future.
Outside of the EU we now have the opportunity to become the global, outward-looking trading nation that the British people voted for. David Cameron is right not to rush invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, commencing formal exit negotiations, until the British Government is united on exactly what it wants to achieve. This is clearly not possible until we have a new Prime Minister.
As I have said before I was disappointed that David Cameron decided to resign. He has been a brilliant Prime Minister who presided over a real turnaround in this country and I believe had a lot more to offer. In York Outer unemployment is down a massive 78% since 2010, and employment nationally is now at record levels. There are now 1.4 million more children in good and outstanding schools, and our finances are in a much stronger position than when he took over from Gordon Brown.
The job of the next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party will be challenging, and it is reassuring that we have such a strong slate of candidates. We are currently in the midst of the selection process as Conservative MPs whittle down the contenders until two remain for the Party membership to choose between.
I put my support behind Stephen Crabb, and as I write this column he has taken the understandable decision to stand aside after the first round result has come through. Stephen is a real rising star in the Party and has the ability to be a fantastic leader. He ultimately has a great future ahead of him and I strongly believe his time will come, but this now leaves me with the decision of who to support in the next ballot.
Our next Prime Minister must be a unifying voice, someone able to build bridges around the world, across the country, and between colleagues who campaigned on opposite sides during the referendum. They must also respect the result of the referendum, be experienced in Government and have a strong vision for Britain in this truly historic time of change. My instinct points to Theresa May, and I will be meeting with her before making my final decision about who to vote for in Thursday’s second ballot.