January 30, 2020 - 11:58am


Brexit is about more than ‘global Britain’. It is a response to the call of home. It reflects the attachment of people to the places that are theirs. Patriotism is rooted in places – our love of our country begins with love of our neighbourhoods. Our first loyalties are to the people we live among, and we have a preference to be governed by people we know. This impulse is not wrong, Mr Speaker, it is right.


There is a great mission here for government as we leave the EU and try to fashion a UK fit for the future. This mission represents a challenge to some of the traditional views of both Left and Right. Because the main actor in our story is not the solitary individual seeking to maximise personal advantage, not is it the central state, enforcing uniformity from a department in Whitehall; the main actor in our story is the local community.


The issue of identity, of who we are, both as individuals and in relation to each other. Traditionally we had a sense of this: we are children of God, fallen but redeemed, capable of wrong but capable of great virtue, and even for those who didn’t believe in God there was a sense that our country is rooted in Christianity, that our liberties derive from the Christian idea of absolute human dignity.

And today these ideas are losing their purchase. And so we are trying to find a new set of values to guide us – a new language of rights and wrongs, and a new idea o f identity, based not on our universal inner value or our membership of a common culture, but on our particular differences. And I state this as neutrally a s I can because I know that good people are trying hard to make a better world, and I know that Christianity and our Western past are badly stained by violence and injustice. But I’m not sure we should casually throw away the inheritance of our culture.


As we advance at speed into a bewildering world, and we are forced to ask the most profound questions about the limits of autonomy and what it means to be human, we may have reason to look about for the old ways, and seek wisdom in the old ideas which are, in my view, entirely timeless.