AS we leave 2016, perhaps the most unpredictable year in living memory, my new year’s resolution is to make no more predictions. I am told that if, at the start of last year, you had put a £5 bet on Leicester City winning the Premier League, the UK leaving the European Union and Donald Trump winning the US Presidential Election, you would be £15 million richer today, which serves to illustrate how few of the events of 2016 were expected.
2017 will be about dealing with the consequences of those unexpected events. The prospects for the Premier League are beyond my responsibilities but renewing the special relationship with President Trump will remain in the national interest and a key responsibility of the Government. Most significantly though of course, our new Prime Minister and her Government will continue the huge and complex task of extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union, acting together to enact the democratic outcome of the Referendum, however we voted in it. There are, of course, many ongoing arguments about exactly how the UK should leave the EU, and exactly what sort of relationship we should have with the rest of Europe once we have left.
Even the way to begin the process of renegotiation is in dispute, as I have been all too aware as Attorney General. In that capacity I have been involved in setting out the Government’s position in court on how Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which sets out how an EU nation state leaves the EU, should lawfully be triggered. The case, perhaps the most substantial constitutional case in decades, has been heard in the Supreme Court by all 11 Supreme Court Justices. This is unprecedented, and it has happened in the glare of national and even international media interest. What the world has seen is a demonstration of the rule of law in this country. It has seen a Government prepared to argue its case in court, not expect to rule by decree, and ready to accept the judgment of that court. Regardless of our views on Brexit, that is something of which all of us in this country should be proud. What none of us can take pride in however is the ongoing division in our society which the EU referendum has caused.
This festive season may have brought less goodwill than usual for friends and families still bitterly differing on the referendum outcome. I hope that 2017 will bring acceptance from everyone that, whether you think the outcome was right or wrong, it was the outcome and we must, as a nation, move on. We have a huge challenge ahead of us in making the UK successful and prosperous outside the EU and everyone has a part to play in that effort. Compliance with the rule of law, even for Governments, is one of the guiding principles of our unwritten Constitution, but acceptance of democracy is another, including being prepared to accept democratic outcomes we may not like. Those places in the world that look to us to set an example of the kind of democracy they aspire to be need to see us commit to the principles we espouse around the globe
2017 can mark the beginning of an exciting new phase for the United Kingdom, if we choose to see it that way. We have a lot to offer the world and we should never shrink from it and turn inwards. And the rest of the world won’t wait for us to reunite. We will either move forward together or we will be left behind together. Maybe that is one prediction it is still safe to make.