Conservative Party Conference, Manchester
Well, Stephen, wonderful to have the chance to follow you and I should begin by saying that in your presentation just now, you’ve shown the strength and the clarity which made you an outstanding prime minister of a great country.
Now, as you pointed out and as every conservative knows in the marrow of his or her bones, change has costs, but some costs simply have to be paid.
And if Britain is to be a free country, the difficulties of leaving simply have to be faced and they simply have to be overcome.
Now I know that many people here in Britain think that these are daunting times, but surely they are also stirring times because yet again, a great country is grasping for freedom.
If I can say one thing above all to you, it is if there is any country on earth that should be capable of standing on its own two feet, it’s Britain because this, let’s face – it’s a country that has given the wider world the mother of parliaments, the world’s common language and the industrial revolution; three of the greatest gifts this modern world has.
So, I just want to make a few fundamental points. The first point I make is that it was possible to be a Remainer before the democratic vote was taken, but it is not possible to be a Remainer today if you also want to be a democrat and surely all of us in the end want to be democrats.
Now, the next point I want to make is if you can only leave with a deal, you can never really leave because a deal presupposes an agreement between two parties, and I’ve got to tell you, watching the behaviour of the EU over the last three years, you will never get a good deal out of the EU. And can I say further, in this vein, that no-deal is no big deal because let’s face it: if Britain can do 55 per cent of its trade on a no-deal basis with the rest of the world, if Australia can do $100 billion a year in trade with the EU without a deal, surely it is possible for Britain to continue on the same basis with Europe.
Another point. This is a contemptible parliament, an utterly contemptible parliament. It is a parliament that will not allow the government to govern. It will not change the government, and it will not allow an election. What an abomination, and if I might quote someone from history: you have sat here too long for any good you are doing, in God’s name, go!
Now, as a former prime minister, I have nothing but respect for all members of the former prime ministers club, and that includes the most recent former prime minister of this great country, but I have got to say, my heart leapt when Boris Johnson became the prime minister of this country. I believe that this is the man for these times, and it seems to me that the two great things that he has going for him is that he will not ask for an extension, and he will not accept a bad deal. And, if you sail by those two stars, I don’t believe that you can make too many mistakes.
Now, the final point I want to make is that the only thing that Britain should fear right now is of remaining in limbo; of remaining trapped, diminished and humiliated in an EU which has demonstrated its contempt for Britain time and time again because the British establishment is more enthralled to the idea of Brussels than it is to the dictates of its own people. On this point, it is the British people who have been braver than their leaders. It’s high time that the leaders had some of the courage, some of the optimism, some of the confidence that the British people showed when they voted to leave.
And let me make this one final point. This is not just about Britain. In the end, this is about the kind of world in which we live. Now, I want to live in a world of good relations between countries but I do not want to live in a world where what I do in Australia is determined by what people do in other countries. This should be a world of nation states; yes, nation states which are free and fair and prosperous and democratic – but nation states which really are sovereign and that’s what this is all about.