The EU referendum was not, to my mind, a vote to stick two fingers up at Europe and become total isolationists. Nor was it a vote to restore the Commonwealth, or to focus solely on the Anglosphere. It was a vote to remove ourselves from political overreach by a bureaucracy that no longer served our best interests.
We can still, however, remain firm friends with the continent. The latest indications of this are from a very surprising source – Jean-Claude Juncker.
The appointment of Julian King to an anti-terror post is exactly the sort of thing the EU should want us for, and is exactly the sort of thing we can continue to offer the EU after we leave. Our security services and our general defence capabilities are second to none in the EU. We can play a valuable role in helping our allies in the EU and in NATO remain safe, both in the context of Islamist terror and a revanchist Russia. We can use this to our advantage when it comes time to negotiate our trading relationship with the EU. Nothing so coarse as to say that we won’t help to save French and German lives, but offering our expertise in building the security services necessary in exchange for a trade deal that would benefit both the UK and EU.
I do not, however, expect any information on this to become public. The EU will need to punish us in public for leaving, so expect continued opprobrium from the likes of Guy Verhofstadt and Juncker, and we will need to accept some largely cosmetic punishments. However, the strategic interests the EU has in our friendship are a compelling case for negotiating a fair deal with the UK. Too much punishment will lead to a UK that refuses to work with our allies on the continent and will weaken EU and UK security. There is a balance to be struck between punishing the UK publicly whilst admitting the EU needs the UK in private. We can accept that and all benefit in the longer run.