As a Scot, nothing gets my goat more than people using the word ‘English’ when they mean ’British.’ ‘Queen of England’ is the commonest. She is not. She is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including the Isle of Man, Berwick-upon Tweed which allegedly got itself separated from the rest of the UK at some stage in history, of the British Overseas Territories, of much of the Commonwealth and of the Channel Islands.)
So the title of this book “Full English Brexit” is a misnomer which the more rabid of my fellow Scots will leap onto ‘like a tramp on a kipper’. “Aha!” they will argue. “That proves that even the most ardent Brexiteer (yours truly) accepts it as possible that Scotland will not leave the EU when England does”, or some other such banal idiocy.
Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, but the title of this book is little more than a euphonius pun. My frontispiece, which is a November 2016 birthday card drawn for me by my daughter Olivia, was its inspiration, offering as it does a full menu of EU Breakfasts. (And don’t be misled by the ‘Or MAYbe never’ cartoon, which was drawn during the Supreme Court hearing into Article 50 and whether or not it needed a Parliamentary motion. Hence the three bewigged judges/chefs in the top right hand corner.)
‘Full British Brexit’ or ‘Full UK Brexit’ would just not have caught the imagination in quite the same way. So ‘Full English Brexit’ it is. But pace the Scottish National Party, it refers to the whole of the UK. (Incidentally Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain either, yet the Province will just as assuredly be in ‘Brexit’ as any other part of the United Kingdom.)
My second apology is to those who might have bought this book in the hope that it would be some kind of a re-run of the Brexit Referendum campaign. They are like the man with the sore tooth. Europhiles and Brexiteers alike just can’t leave it alone. They re-fight the old fights, remind everyone what they had to say in those glory days before the Referendum. They’re the old bores sipping pink gins in the corner of the Officers’ Mess recounting tales from their war, (very probably drawing a veil over the fact that they were in reality only the junior officer in charge of pink gin in the Mess long after the fighting was over.)
We must, unlike them, now put the substantive arguments about Brexit behind us. The people spoke in the Referendum. They mandated the Government to withdraw from the EU. That is what we are now doing - irrevocably after the delivery of the Article 50 letter. There are no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts.’ No hard Brexit or soft Brexit, no red, white and blue Brexit. The fact is that on 30 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. All that is left is to decide the method of our going, and the terms of the post-divorce relationship with the remaining EU countries and with the EU itself (which is by no means the same thing.)
So this book is not about England (it’s about the whole of the UK); it’s not about Brexit (or at least not mainly - we are all a bit bored by Brexit.) And it’s not about Breakfast either (in case through any mischance any lover of two sausages and a fried egg bought the book looking for recipes.) It’s not even about being ‘Full’ so much as being ‘Great’.
It is intended to be about what made Britain Great; and about what post-Brexit we must do to make us Great again, (unlike Donald Trump’s idle boast about making America ‘Great again’, at least we have ‘Great’ in our name.) It’s about what we want Britain to look like, what kind of Britain we want to pass to subsequent generations. It’s about what we can do both in and for the world. It’s about power through Aid and War; it’s about Britain as a great trading nation, about our Parliament and laws, about our diplomatic, cultural and ethical contribution to the wider world.
In other words, it’s an attempt at some mind of strategic rethink about who we are, what we are for. It is intensely personal, deliberately controversial, I hope thought-provoking in parts. And if it provides some little stimulus to a much wider debate, then it will have done its job.
I am indebted to a great many people who have been of huge help in compiling this- mildly encyclopaedic work. My Parliamentary Chief of Staff, that most British of all Slovakians, Adam Fico runs a large part of my political and professional life and had a hand in many aspects of the book, as did my Private Secretary, Amy Swash. Duncan Depledge, who has played a leading role in reviving Parliament’s knowledge and understanding of the Polar Regions is largely responsible for that chapter. Fred de Fossard whose academic prowess currently labours in the Parliamentary Resources Unit has a great writing future ahead of him, and provided much of the inspiration for the chapter on Britain’s diplomatic future. My Military Chief of Staff, Johnny Longbottom has kept the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme going, and advised me on military matters. Ross Crapnell proof-read it and avoided a host of infelicities (and spelling and grammatical errors). And my wife, Philippa, has tolerated long hours in my study, and made a myriad contributions throughout the book. The publishers, Halsgrove in Wellington, Somerset, so ably led by Steven Pugsley have been an inspiration and help throughout, and will, I hope, be ready to publish some more of my scribblings in the future. None of them bear any responsibility for the views I express, many of which are personal and controversial. They have all been magnanimous in suppressing their own, sometimes sharply divergent thoughts.