Tim Dawson: We unlocked the door – now let’s walk through it

Arguments are often trotted out, on both sides of the Brexit debate, suggesting that certain figures from history were or were not passionate about the European project.

“Winston Churchill would have been a federalist!” scream arch-Remainers. Well, I hate it to break it to you, guys, but we don’t know that – and can’t know that – because he died in 1965.

In general, I think putting words into the mouth of great historical figures is an impertinence. We simply can’t – and shouldn’t pretend to – know the view of anyone who died before the EU’s creation.

Things are much clearer with Margaret Thatcher, who witnessed the European Union’s formation and mutation, and made it absolutely clear that, had she still been Prime Minister, she would not have signed up to Maastricht.

The truth is, from the second we joined the European Union, we were always destined to leave. Why else were governments of various colours always so reluctant to consult us – the people – on the matter? Why else was offering a referendum – as David Cameron did, but also as the now turbo-federalist Liberal Democrats did before him – always such a vote winner?

Britain’s continued absorption into the European Union could only happen without the British people being given a choice on it.

When, in 2015, the Conservatives offered that choice, voters responded by giving them a majority – the Tories’ first since 1992.

When the referendum came, the people – 17.4 million people, in the face of a better resourced and highly polished establishment Remain campaign – voted to Leave.

We talk a lot on this site about the huge advantages of Brext. Control over our laws and borders. Most importantly perhaps, the massive economic benefits: freedom to set our own tax and regulation; to sign trade deals across the globe; and to take advantage of new technology so we become world-leading innovators, spearheading the revolution in science, rather than always playing catch-up through the EU.

These are cold, hard reasons to leave.

There is also the simple matter of temperament.

British activity in the EU has always revolved around dragging our feet. Moaning and grumbling.

We were the difficult ones. Unenthusiastic. Always with one eye on the door.

This has been a difficult two years, mainly thanks to a Parliament which has too many MPs who instinctively cling to Nurse, and struggle to grasp both the promise and the spirit of Brexit.

But our relationship with the European Union was never a great romance— even if we allowed ourselves to become far more embroiled with each other than was sensible.

Let’s stay friends, by all means. I hope we do. But for the good of us all, in both the UK and on the continent, Parliament needs to stop squabbling and – finally – accept the inevitable.

Our old relationship with Brussels is over. But a new one – based on mutual respect rather than bitterness and indecision – is still possible.

We had the courage to unlock the door. We must now have the courage to walk through it.

A new, brighter, freer future awaits – for everyone.