Richard North, 01/01/2020  
 


Well, we've been looking forward to it for many decades: the year we get to leave the European Union - at the end of this month, unless something seriously unexpected happens. Some, no doubt, will be keen to emulate the French and burn EU flags in the street. But, for many of us who have campaigned for so long, when we do leave it will be a bittersweet moment.

What should have been a new beginning for our nation has been so badly managed that the Brexit we face will be, to say the very least, sub-optimal – even if much of the economic damage will be delayed until next year.

Thus, for those of us who know that Brexit could have been different and so much better, celebrations will be muted. But, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are headed for the exit and we can, at last, put an end to the interminable debates about a second referendum. To that extent, we have made some progress.

Nevertheless, despite saying it before, I will say it again: I wish the word Brexit had never been invented. We should not be thinking in terms of walking away from the EU, as such. Rather, we are redefining our relationship with the 27 Member States and the EU institutions.

Therefore, there can be no sense in which Brexit is "done" until we have redefined that relationship and implemented the necessary measures to set it in motion. That is going to take much longer than the truncated transitional period which ends on 31 December 2020. It will be many more years before that process is complete and only then will Brexit be truly done.

Even then, under the current administration, with a serial liar and fantasist at the helm, we can have no confidence that the right choices will be made or that the path will be smooth. In fact, we have every reason to fear the worst in a situation which is so fraught with problems that even well-made plans would be difficult to execute.

That, though, is for the future. For the moment, we can take what consolation we can in the knowledge that a long-sought-after process might be about to start, heralding a new year that no one can deny will be different from most.

And with that, despite the difficulties that we face, I wish family, friends, readers and supporters a happy New Year. There is no reason why, on a personal level, this should not be a year to enjoy, while we watch history being made.






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