This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
April may be the cruellest month but January is definitely the longest. So it’s fitting then, that the ending of the longest, most drawn out political process in living memory will come this Friday, January 31st, even though it feels like it’s January the 92nd.
It slipped by under the radar a little, unless you are the kind of sad political geek who follows these things, but the Withdrawal Agreement was signed last week. There has been way too much hoo-har over how or whether the UK should mark its departure from the EU: should Big Ben ‘bong’ to mark the occasion, the release of the commemorative 50pence coin, the crowd-funding campaign to get a We Love the UK banner to display across the cliffs at Dover. I had to check the date when I heard that one, I thought it might have been an early April Fool.
Will we suddenly find the NHS coffers filling up by magic on Saturday morning, now that we are free from EU meddling? Will my Sainsburys delivery send me my apples and pears in pounds and ounces now that we are free from EU metric meddling? Will our unemployment rate plummet with a mass exodus of EU migrants leaving those jobs free to be filled by British workers? No, No and, funnily enough, No.
It may seem as though we’ve been working on this for ever, but in truth, most of the negotiation is still ahead of us, rather than behind. If we are to get decent trade deals with the rest of the EU, with Canada, with the United States and whichever other countries with whom we wish to trade their goods for our goods, then there is still a lot of work to do.
I made no secret of the way I voted in the Referendum. If we had to do it again, I would probably make the same choice. I want my children to grow up in a world where the borders are more open than closed, where they have more choices rather than fewer.
I was also, for my sins, one of Boris’ “doomsters and gloomsters”, believing that we would be better off in the EU than out of it and, obviously, then worse off our of it than in. Tempting though the thought of being able to say ‘I told you so’ is, I very much hope that I will be proved wrong.
The time for mithering about the wrongs and rights of the Referendum result has long passed. It’s now time for the politicians to roll their sleeves up and make this thing work for us.