It’s a great honour to have been invited to give this lecture tonight.
We did not know when we fixed this lecture how critical a week this would be. So, inevitably, I wrote some of this text before knowing how the last 72 hours have unfolded. My remarks are therefore primarily about the lessons we really need to learn from the last 30 months – I might perhaps argue the last 30 years – if we are to emerge the other side of the Brexit process with both our democracy and our economy flourishing.
The stakes could not be higher now. We face the biggest political crisis for at least a couple of generations. The risks are now both a democratic crisis and an economic one.
We just cannot go on as we have been: evading and obfuscating choices – indeed frequently denying, against all evidence, that there are unavoidable choices. And the public will, understandably, not, for a very long time, forgive a political class which, on all sides of the divide, fails to level with it on the choices being made.
This feels a rather unseasonal theme, but as we are approaching Christmas, I thought I would therefore talk about nine lessons we need to draw from the last 2 ½ years, if the next 2 ½ – indeed the next decade – are not to be even more painful.
I wish I could say that I thought these nine lessons were in the process of being digested. Perhaps we do at least have some signs that a genuine debate about types of post Brexit destination, based on something other than complete wishful thinking, is belatedly breaking out.