John Major weighs in to Brexit debate

On Monday, the former prime minister John Major made a speech calling the debate over Britain’s relationship with Europe “deeply dispiriting”. He is particularly vexed at the “unreal and over-optimistic” hopes for Britain’s future post-Brexit.

“A new trade deal with Europe will be hugely complex” and there is “little chance we will be able to match the advantages of the single market”. EU demands that we pay them up to €60bn might be “contentious”, but “the bill will be substantial: billions, not millions, and very unpalatable”.

“If anyone should know about historic mistakes it’s Sir John Major,” thunders the Daily Mail, the man who “led us into the disastrous Exchange Rate Mechanism”. So it’s no surprise that “his speech was a tirade of negativity”. Like Tony Blair and Michael Heseltine, Major epitomises “a deeply tarnished political class that has had its day but does not have the dignity to recognise the fact”.

Major is “quite right” to point out that a hard Brexit means “substantial barriers on exporting goods and services to Europe”, counters Sean O’Grady in The Independent. If anything, he understates the risks. A hard Brexit will “leave many of us poorer and wreck the British social model”, agrees the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.

But even if it does not, “it’s not unpatriotic for the defeated side in an electoral contest to continue to hold to those beliefs after a loss”. The most “corrosive and dangerous” post-referendum trend is the insistence from Leave supporters that “we all pretend that there are no risks, no doubts and that none of us voted to Remain on 23 June”.

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