Tuesday 21 November 2017

It's time to make it clear to Britain's EU friends: yes, we really are leaving

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA
Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA

William Hague

Spending the past few days in Germany, I have found people here puzzled, offended, and feeling slightly bereft at the prospect of Britain's exit from the EU. They consider they are losing the one other major country that has a strong sense of financial and economic discipline, and they are right.

Most striking is the number of people, here and in other parts of Europe, who still ask if it will really happen. "Is opinion changing in Britain?" they ask. "When the negotiations become difficult, will the British lose heart? What about a second referendum, or an election bringing in a different government?"

To Germans, it seems so unimaginable and illogical to leave the EU that they cannot believe that rational people like us really will go through with it. They don't like my answer to these questions. I explain that even though I voted to 'Remain', I believe that what was done on June 23 last year cannot be undone. Yes, opinion on how it's all going will vary, but that's different from reversing it. A serious effort to reverse the referendum outcome would cause more division, bitterness and uncertainty than could ever be worth it.

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