An abiding quality of rational, intelligent people is the ability, when faced with the vicissitudes of life, to calmly and confidently change one’s mind without appearing foolish or losing the respect of one’s peers.
Indeed, there are few things likely to undermine that respect more than a stubborn refusal to accept when one is clearly wrong. Such wisdom and maturity separates adults from children and the enlightened from the ideologue.
Having the courage to admit “we’re making a big mistake here”, however confident we might have been in our chosen course of action, is what differentiates real leaders from those timid souls, too fearful of derision to do the right thing.
Yes, I am talking about Brexit… again. But this is exactly the conversation we need to have now before it’s too late.
Yes, we had a referendum. Yes, there was a clear, albeit not overwhelming majority that chose to leave, which in a democratic society has to be respected.
However, it quickly became clear that, far from delivering a brave new world, we had in fact been sold a big, fat, delusional lie, fuelled by the dogma and hubris of those vainly clinging to fading memories of our imperial past.
Increasingly self-evident folly
By pursuing this increasingly self-evident folly we have unwittingly made ourselves a national laughing stock; an object of ridicule for such odious individuals as Jean-Claude Juncker, who would hitherto have never felt so emboldened as to publicly mock our leaders in the way he has.
Meanwhile, the rest of Europe looks on in bewilderment at the self-inflicted humiliation of a nation they all, albeit grudgingly at times, looked up to.
The cold and unyielding prospect of life after the EU is beginning to weigh ever more heavily on the minds of even the most ardent Brexiteer, as the chances of securing favourable trade deals with even our supposedly closest allies appear increasingly distant.
It is sadly ironic that, even within this previously triumphant caucus, the jingoistic tenor of post-referendum euphoria has given way to an altogether grimmer Dunkirk spirit, as the reality of what we have actually voted for slowly starts to dawn.
Bonfire of regulation
For agriculture, any thoughts of a bonfire of regulation at home is vanishing as quickly as the proverbial politician’s promise, with ever more onerous yet largely cosmetic home-grown environmental legislation designed to appease the green lobby at the expense of our competitiveness.
This, combined with the growing prospect of our government waiving WTO tariffs on food imports as one of the few levers it will have left to control inflation, paints a pretty grim picture for all but the most established niche producers.
Brussels is a flawed and in many ways morally bankrupt institution, but a united, peaceful Europe, built on mutual trade and interdependence, is anything but. Whichever way you look at it, we cannot hope or expect to influence the former if we are not a part of the latter.
If, in the light of what we know now, the genuine will of the UK electorate is still to leave, then advocates of Brexit have nothing to fear from a second referendum.
If it isn’t, then denying us the opportunity to change our minds while we still can is a denial of the very democratic process they so ardently espouse.