I have believed for forty years that the EEC/EU was a flawed and damaging institution, and that we in Britain would be better off out of it. I am delighted that the people have now delivered a clear mandate to withdraw from it. The people of Britain have spoken, and they have characteristically rebelled against the centralised, patronising, bureaucratic megalith which the EU had become.
We must now start the complex, and perhaps lengthy, process of re-establishing ourselves as a free and independent state. There will be a great deal of unravelling to be done. I am certain that Britain will be a more prosperous, free, and truly democratic country after we have achieved it. We are the fifth largest economy in the World (second in the Continent of Europe), the fourth largest military; and we are well able to stand on our own two feet. I promise to play my part in the complex procedures and processes which will now follow to ensure that we have the best possible deal from the divorce.
On a personal level I am so sorry that David Cameron had to stand down as Prime Minister. I have known him for twenty-five years (we were Special Advisers together in the John Major Government), and I know him to be a thoroughly decent, principled, brave and highly competent Prime Minister. He has done great things for the Nation, and we should be grateful to him for it.
But I fear that his handling of the entire EU Referendum saga was flawed in a whole variety of ways; and it would not have been possible to re-unite the Party and country under his leadership. I wish him well in his retirement. The procedure for electing his replacement has now been set down by the 1922 Committee. The Parliamentary Conservative Party will narrow the field to two candidates, within a week or so, and the wider Conservative Party will then have until 2 September to elect a new Prime Minister. It is likely that one of them will be Boris Johnson, the other slot will be known soon. I plan to consider each team and promises and will keep you up to date on my thinking.
The Conservative Party were elected to power on a clear mandate and manifesto only 12 months ago. It is our duty now to deliver those promises and to ensure the good governance of the UK for the next four years until the General Election. Alongside that, the government will have to manage our exit from the EU. We have a challenging few years ahead, and need someone of stature and ability to handle it.
We must also now put behind us some of the unpleasantness of the last few weeks; we must lay aside personal ambitions and prejudices; and we must find a way to work together as a Party to deliver the good governance which the people deserve. We need a good steady, strong hand on the tiller if the ship of State is to steady herself as she must.
So now is the time for unity, for Olive branches, hands of friendship across political debates and divides. The time for rhetoric and arguing is now past, the way forward settled by the will of the people.
Now the hard work must begin.