On more than one occasion over the past few months I must confess I have thought to myself: if I had known then what a nightmare it was going to be, I might never have done it.
Like 17 million other Britons — many of them readers of this newspaper — I voted in 2016 to leave the European Union. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t changed my mind about leaving. If anything, the intransigence of Brussels in negotiating Britain’s exit deal has only strengthened my view that being out is the only place to be.
As for the relentless campaign on behalf of influential Establishment figures in favour of Remain to overturn the democratic wish of the British people at any cost, I have nothing but contempt for their condescending arrogance and grotesque sense of entitlement. We had a democratic vote — it should be respected.
Sarah Vine (left) with husband Michael Gove said she salutes Prime Minister Theresa May (right)
It is because of the hugely powerful vested interests of the above that this entire process has been so impossibly fraught. Add in an opportunistic Labour Party that cares about nothing but gaining power, a far from impartial civil service (let’s tell the truth and shame the Devil for once, shall we?) and a hard Brexit contingent who just want to crash out at all costs — and it’s little wonder we’ve ended up with an imperfect deal.
In fact, it’s a miracle we have any kind of work-able deal on the table at all. And if we do, it’s not despite Mrs May, as so many have argued and will no doubt continue to argue. It’s because of her.
I’ll be honest, Theresa May was not my first choice as successor to David Cameron. She wasn’t even my second, third, fourth or fifth. And when she got the job, she didn’t exactly go out of her way to make friends.
Not only did she fire my husband from his post as Lord Chancellor, she fired anyone associated with the Cameron regime, which was both a tad ruthless and very short-sighted, since many of them were actually rather good at their jobs and might have been quite useful to her.
Her actions in some ways, though, were understandable: every new leader wants to build a loyal team, and she needed to impose her authority.
What happened next, however, was straightforwardly misjudged. First, she triggered Article 50 — thus initiating the formal notice period for securing a deal — before any serious due diligence had been done by government departments on what a good deal would look like. It meant Britain entered the negotiations ultimately disadvantaged.
Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Environment Secretary Michael Gove (right) arrive at the launch of the Government’s 25-year environment plan at The London Wetland Centre in South West London. Sarah Vine, who is married to Michael Gove said she salutes the Prime Minister’s grit
And she called that disastrous General Election, which lost her the Government’s already slim majority — and elevated Jeremy Corbyn to cult status. Neither was a good idea, and both have contributed significantly to the Government’s woes.
But we are where we are. Politics, as a wise man once said, is nothing if not the art of the impossible. And what more impossible task could there be than extricating Britain from a European Union whose very existence depends on keeping us in.
The truth is, even the most experienced politician would have struggled against the might of Brussels. Cameron, of course, understood that, which is why he campaigned so hard for Remain in the first place, and why, ultimately, he resigned when Leave won.
May chose to fight — and has borne the brunt of Brussels’ fury because of it. Did she have any inkling of how vicious it was going to be? Who knows. But the fact remains that she has put up with their jibes, their tricks, their lies and their arrogance, all the while battling incessant opposition at home.
And I, for one, cannot help but admire that in her. Perhaps it’s just that, woman to woman, I recognise only too well the feeling of being a lone female in the face of unrelenting male condescension. The fact that she has not given up, not run away, but just kept on going. Because, ultimately, there is no other choice and someone has to do it. That is something all women understand.
And at the end of the day, she has brought back a deal that, while not perfect, nevertheless allows us to control migration, to stem the flow of new EU legislation — and exonerates Britain from future membership contributions. And even if you doubt that or don’t care, the fact remains that all the alternatives are either softer, unworkable — or no deal at all.
The Prime Minister (centre) has recently announced the new environment plan and met with Martin Spray, the CEO of the WWT (left) and Michael Gove (right)
Most people in her shoes would consider this a significant victory. But for a woman such as May — a 62-year-old suffering from a serious medical condition that would sap even the youngest and fittest person’s energy — it represents a truly superhuman achievement.
That infamous electoral slogan of hers — strong and stable — that once drew so much mockery now finally starts to ring true.
Today, she stands as a beacon of calm sanity in a sea of hysterical, egomaniacal voices.
Her focus, perseverance and dogged determination have, with this voter at least, finally earned her the respect she tried — and failed — to impose by force at the start of her premiership.
Speaker Bercow (pictured above) had displayed a ‘Boll***s to Brexit’ car sticker
Even if she now fails to get this deal through Parliament — as seems probable when the House votes on it on December 11 — she will have shown the country what she is made of. What she truly is. A leader who, at no small personal and political cost, has done everything within the constraints placed upon her to guide the nation through one of the most testing times in its history.
And if I had not begun to feel this already over the course of the past few weeks, as the voices of those determined to exploit the weakness of the deal to further their own leadership agendas have become increasingly shrill, Monday’s debate in the Commons was a turning point.
The chamber of the House of Commons is, by necessity, a brutal environment. But on Monday, the atmosphere tipped from civilised debate into the political equivalent of a bare-knuckle fight.
Aided and abetted by Speaker Bercow — he of the ‘Boll***s to Brexit’ car sticker — who all but strung her up from the ceiling of the chamber as a punchbag, the gloves were truly off, no holds barred. They set upon her, each one hoping to deal that fatal blow that would bring her down.
And yet they couldn’t. Time and again she fought back, responding each time with renewed vigour, even as the debate wore on and the chamber began to empty.
She was up on her feet and on her brief, battling with every ounce of her strength, batting away questions, from the facetious to the fiendish, with a fierce energy I would not have credited her with.
I saw then in May something I have not seen in a politician for a long while: true grit. Someone prepared to stand up for something she believes in. To put her neck on the line for a deal that, whatever its flaws, gets Britain out of the European Union as per the wishes of the British people and, perhaps just as importantly, will allow the country to move forward out of this interminable, divisive and toxic political limbo. We will have a Brexit at last.
Mrs May still has a long road ahead of her. It will take every ounce of determination and strength to survive the next few weeks.
I have no idea how she is going to do it, but I really hope she does. Because one thing is certain: she will not walk away from her duty, however unrewarding it may be, however stark the choices she faces. And that is exactly the kind of Prime Minister this country not only needs, but also deserves.