|Public service is an enormous honour – perhaps the greatest that you can have. I believe in it, as does almost everyone I have met who works to serve the public – teaching assistants, council workers, hospital porters, fellow politicians across the political divide, civil servants, diplomats – and so on. Of course, none of us wakes up in the morning and says “off I go to serve the public” – we are British and we wear our vocation lightly. But burning within most public servants is a deep purpose to make their corner of the world a better place, to serve the people who use public services and depend on the safeguards of the state.
For me, the last few months have felt like a particular form of public service. We face enormous opportunities but the challenges are real. We must negotiate a successful exit from the European Union, untangling a shared political system that has grown together over more than forty years. The negotiations themselves will be some of the most wide-ranging in history. But I am sure, having seen preparations begin, that we can succeed in getting the best deal for Britain. And the reason for that is the strong, principled and balanced leadership that our prime minister brings.
We were all surprised by the decision to call an early general election. But from my double aspect, here in Ipswich and down in London, I can see precisely why it is needed. The fact is that although our European allies are our friends, they will want to maximise what they can get out of these negotiations – as their voters and people would rightly expect. That is a formidable challenge – 27 member states against one Britain, however strong.
And then there are the challenges at home. You will know the position I took in the referendum; but you also know that I respected the result and am determined to make the very best of it. I believe now more than ever that we can make this work, but it will take care, hard work, honour and intelligence. There are some, however, who take a different view. They want to frustrate the negotiations and make sure that we either leave with no deal or do not leave at all. Some of these are separatists, interested only in their own narrow and dismal cause. They are ranged against the government, both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.