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The anniversary of the Brexit referendum reminds us how much we have to look forward to

3 min read

We must continue to build trading relationships with old friends and new, and to seize the fantastic opportunities that our new independent position in the world brings.

Five years on, all the promise of Brexit still holds, and I imagine most of us remember what we felt when the result of the referendum became clear. In the early hours of that morning, I was at the BBC for the result, and I’ll never forget the (weary) face of David Dimbleby as he turned to me and announced that the Leave campaign had won.

There have been many highs and lows since that night and I have been privileged to serve in several cabinet roles central to our exit from the European Union. Initially, as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, I kicked off the work to make sure our food and farming industry could make a success of the opportunities that Brexit would grant us, with a 25-year Food and Farming Plan and a 25-year Environment Plan, backed up by strong financial support.

And as Leader of the House, I had the challenging experience of getting hundreds of pieces of Brexit legislation through the House – a hung Parliament and a “tricky” Speaker standing firmly in the government’s way. These were some of the most testing times that Parliament has faced in decades – who can forget the endless debates on amendments to business motions and the arguments over the use of the word ‘”forthwith?”

We “Got Brexit Done” only once Boris had swept to victory with the support of a nation sick of all the squabbling – they at least could see that the decision had been made, and politicians should therefore just get on with it. As secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy I was proud to give new direction to the department, with a mission to build a stronger, greener United Kingdom – free from the restraints of the European Union.

The UK's future as a free trading, independent nation is very clear

The unexpected turmoil and effects of Covid stopped the world in its tracks. Yet despite the pandemic, the government has continued to make fantastic progress on our future outside the EU.

To date, 67 trade deals plus one with the EU to the value of nearly £900bn have been signed, including most recently, from scratch, one with Australia. It is the first of many – with trade deals being negotiated as we speak with the likes of New Zealand and the USA, as well as the opening discussions on our accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – to markets worth $9tn.

We have made good on the promise of taking back control of our money, borders and our laws. A fair points-based immigration system is being put in place.

The UK’s future as a free trading, independent nation is very clear, and just as when I first backed the Leave campaign, I continue to be totally optimistic about the UK’s plans to promote jobs, growth and exports and to be a force for good in the world.

From science and technology to life sciences, financial services and even political processes, the UK has many individual strengths to offer to the world. We must continue to build trading relationships with old friends and new, and to seize the fantastic opportunities that our new independent position in the world brings. With the continuing success of the vaccination rollout and the path out of lockdown almost complete, the sunlit uplands of our post-Brexit future remain ours to grasp.


Andrea Leadsom is the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire.

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