On 23rd June, we saw one of the biggest democratic exercises in our history. We should be proud that across the country more than 33 million people had their say on a question of this magnitude. I supported a Remain vote, as I made clear in this column two weeks ago. While I was disappointed with the result, I accept the fact that the majority of voters – over 17 million people by a majority of over 1.2 million – voted to leave the EU.
Our country has incredible strengths. As we proceed with implementing the decision of the British people, and face the challenges which that brings, I believe that we should hold fast to a vision of a Britain that wants to be respected abroad, tolerant at home, engaged in the world and work with our international partners to advance the prosperity and security of our nation for generations to come.
We also have a fundamental responsibility to bring our country together. The campaign was long and hard-fought, but we must now make sure we reject the politics of division, which was unfortunately used by some during the campaign. Our country has a long history, over thousands of years, of welcoming and integrating immigrant communities, who have gone on to make a wonderful contribution to our country, and we are all the stronger for it.
Since the Referendum, we have seen despicable acts of hate crime against members of ethnic minorities – many of whom are British citizens. We will not stand for attacks of this kind. They must be stamped out.
While Britain may be leaving the European Union, we must not turn our back on Europe or the rest of the world. We must reassure European citizens living here that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances, nor will there be any initial change in the way our people can travel, the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold. The new Prime Minister will seek the strongest possible links with our European neighbours, as well as with our close friends in North America, the Commonwealth and important partners such as India and China.
Whatever the precise nature of our future relationship, we will want to continue with a great deal our extensive co-operation with our European friends, and we will do all we can to influence decisions that will affect the prosperity and safety of our people here at home.