"Most UK political debate is about solving problems without confronting that one of the bigger problems is Brexit" - Michael Heseltine

Published on June 29, 2023

On Thursday 29th June 2023, Paul Adamson CBE, founder and Chairman of the EU-UK Forum, interviewed EM UK President Michael Heseltine for a new episode of his Encompass Europe Podcast. 

The podcast offers insightful information on Brexit and we would encourage everyone to listen 'Britain's future relations with the European Union'. 

For those of you who might not have time to listen to the whole podcast, we have pulled out a few of our favourite quotes from Lord Heseltine.

“We have the recreation of an atmosphere of practicality, of civilised dialogue, the end of the trivial, schoolboy type abuse that was characteristic of much of the Brexit debate.  One has to be grateful for a British government that is acting as a mature political force. But so great is the difficulty underlying the Brexit fracture, that does not amount to a new optimism, because putting the problem right is not short-term, it is not easy and will require a great deal of commitment by people who realise what a disaster Brexit is.” (5m00 – 5m55)

The real criticism of all party leaders in Britain today is that they won’t talk about Brexit – there is this extraordinary conspiracy of silence. If you see speeches or read articles, the analysis is always there: Ukraine, energy, inflation. Anything except Brexit….. (6m30 – 6m 53)

Major influencers in this context are the Mail and Telegraph – they were very much part of the Brexit campaign – they fed their readers populist Brexit arguments and they are still unable to come to terms with the mistake they were part of.  So their argument now is not that Brexit was wrong but that Brexit was never done. I could have told them Brexit was never going to be done. Because all the promises of Brexit were unfulfillable, based on a complete lack of reality. (8m 55 – 9m45)

Today if you read the Mail and Telegraph you will be told that the Brexiteers were cheated and robbed, because they never got a chance. The fact that their Ministers were in power for 7 years, with their hands on the levers of power seems to have passed them by… (9m54 – 10m04).

Most UK political debate is about solving problems without confronting that one of the bigger problems is Brexit (10m48 - 10m59)

Q: “The European Movement is a campaign to rejoin at some point in the future and I want to press you on two things. One is that if it is not going to be realisable in the medium-term is there a danger that EM and your allies raise false hopes and also that you alienate people you need to bring on side who maybe do not want to rejoin but simply want to have a more constructive relationship?”

A: The argument of pro-Europeans must embrace both those possibilities. It would be silly, ludicrous if I were to say we could rejoin the EU tomorrow. So you could then ask me how long? To which in all honesty I can’t give you an answer, nor can anyone. But what I could say is that the animosity that associated itself with the Brexit campaign is disappearing, political leaders are establishing cordial UK-EU relations on a number of fronts. That is sensible, practical, but not enough.  But one must welcome what one has…. So I’m supportive of that… ( 11m45 - 12m46)

A UK-EU dialogue is beginning to emerge. That’s the first step. The European Movement will argue for that and support it and welcome it. But if you take a first step, there could be a journey ahead….a second step, a third step and it is very important to have that in mind. (13m35 – 14m00)

Q: "people say the Europeans would not want us back or there would be lots of conditions attached, all the opt-outs we had as a member would not be forthcoming?"

A: The art of politics is to confront problems and try to solve them. Too easy to say all these problems exist so don’t bother to take any steps in that direction…I don’t believe these hurdles, they are part of the currency of people who don’t want to take the journey in the first place. The principal reaction to Brexit in Europe is one of sadness, tinged with incredulity….how on earth can a country like this have done what they have done? (14m35 - 15m23)

The Brexit decision across the world was regarded with incredulity and the reputation of this country as a well-governed, sane, parliamentary democracy took a step backwards. The quicker it is put right the happier people like me will be. (22m27 - 22m53) 

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