23 June 2020 | OPINION

Today, 23rd June, marks the fourth anniversary since the historic event that was the Brexit referendum. Crucially, it is the first anniversary that takes place with Britain now outside the European Union, which gives this day that much more significance.

The previous anniversaries were all tainted by the prospect of a “Hotel California” outcome, where at every turn there stood another barrier preventing us from leaving. Between the nay-sayers and the European negotiating team, there were points when many of us had doubted whether Brexit would ever be carried out. We had seen it happen to the Irish, where the EU had pulled strings to prevent their disobedience… was it about to happen to us?

The establishment had certainly been doing their utmost to ensure further delay. Parliament was in a stalemate, which had left Theresa May’s government on the edge of collapse and the opposition parties gnashing their teeth, waiting for their impending doom.

The tides really turned after the European elections in May last year. The return of Nigel Farage to frontline politics proved pivotal for the Brexit story. The Brexit Party highlighted the indecision and frailties in the Government, as well as the overall dissatisfaction at many of our politicians in Parliament, who had done their utmost to stifle the original Brexit optimism. The Brexit Party helped restore the buoyancy which had captured the majority of the country after the referendum, reinvigorating the passion for the cause.

The effect of the Brexit Party was not restricted to the sentimentality of the electorate; it also had the Conservative Party scrambling to pick themselves up, following what can only be described as a battering at the hands of the Brexit Party. If one point can be highlighted as Theresa May’s final nail, the European election was it. This rude awaking ultimately saw the end of the May administration, bringing her disastrous time in charge to a close.

Yet the impact of Nigel Farage’s shadow did not stop there. As every Tory MP went to the ballot box to elect their new leader, the issue of Brexit and the nightmares of the European election undoubtedly hung over them. As a result, they ushered in the Boris administration, with Dominic Cummings as the architect in chief by his side.

Together, they masterminded the 2019 General Election victory, which asserted once again the desire for Britain’s exit of the European Union. The flapping of the Corbyn-led Labour Party and the stubbornness of the “B*llocks to Brexit” coalition was torn to shreds by a country that so desperately desired freedom and democracy. The destruction of Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” is perhaps the greatest testimony to the determination of the British people to see out a vision of a free and independent United Kingdom. People who had sworn never to vote blue suddenly found themselves abandoning their previous loyalties, in favour of completing the Brexit dream.

As it had promised, Johnson’s Government carried through the vital legislation. The renegotiated Withdrawal Agreement was passed and we continued down the path to independence. January 31st saw crowds lining the streets in celebration of the historic event that was our formal exit from the European project. There was an overwhelming sense of just how important that day was in determining the future of our country, not to mention a shared relief that the Brexit train at last seemed unstoppable.

As it currently stands, the UK is seeing out the final few months of the transition period. The Government has already confirmed that there will be no further extension to the transition. This means that, on the turn of the new year, as long as the Government fulfils its duty in the negotiations with the EU, Britain will be a completely free entity once again. Free to make its own laws, free to self-regulate and free to restore sovereignty over its own fishing waters. Parliament will also once again be re-established as the autonomous power in Britain, free from European interference.

This anniversary of the Brexit referendum, unlike some of those that preceded it, brings a tide of optimism. What the future will bring is uncertain, but what we do know is that our destiny now resides in our own hands and we will be free to grasp any opportunities that come our way.

Jonathan is a political reporter and commentator. His interests include philosophy and sociology.


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