Advertisement

Brexit: 'As monumental an event I can remember'

What does the future hold for Britain post-EU? Credit: PA

As I prepared to present our early evening bulletin this evening, my bright, young floor-manager Gena asked me how I rated "Brexit" as a political story.

I paused and said it felt as if it is close to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - certainly, up there with Labour's defeat of war-hero Churchill's Conservative Government in 1945.

That was after 48 hours in which I had seen the "Leavers" confound the pollsters, commentariat and every established oracle of economic thought around.

The UK had decided, by a slim majority, to leave the EU after four decades.

It was 36 hours after the first Tory to win a general election in 23 years had said he'd call it a day as near equal numbers of his parliamentary party circled him with letters of support and letters calling for him to go.

Shortly after that, two Labour MPs, one the former Minister Dame Margaret Hodge, had issued a letter calling for a Parliamentary Labour Party vote of "no confidence" in their leader.

EU Foreign Ministers had echoed Cromwell's plea to the Rump Parliament issuing to the UK their version of "For God's sake go"; Angela Merkel had said "Be gentle with the Brits" and then, in effect, also said "get on with it, and go".

Alastair Stewart compared the momentum of the Berlin Wall collapse to Brexit Credit: PA

In thirty six years of observing and reporting on political events, I don't think I've seen anything like it.

I'd witnessed, at first hand, Thatcher's 1980s decade of industrial destruction which I reported on as an Industrial Correspondent; I'd seen the car, steel and ship-building industries go - their rumps sold to the Germans, Canadians, Chinese and Indians, among others.

Before that, I'd seen Michael Foot elected leader of the Labour party and a senior Labour MP dub his 1983 manifesto "the longest political suicide note in history".

I witnessed Labour's Gang of Four leave, form the SDP, merge with the Liberals, form the Lib-Dems and briefly change the electoral landscape.

I'd watched Ted Heath's long sulk; Geoffrey Howe's broken cricket bat resignation speech, and John Major call the Euro-sceptics "Bastards", resign and stand again.

I recall Blair's landslide victory in 1997, a trio of failed Tory leaders come and go, the "TB-GBies", the first coalition in decades and more and more besides.

Tony Blair's 1997 landslide general election victory sticks in Alastair Stewart's memory Credit: PA

But these last couple of days have been cataclysmic. The tectonic plates of our politics have crashed into each other in a fashion I cannot recall.

And now, in the dead of night, shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn is sacked for saying much the same as Hodge and Coffey.

Mr Corbyn tends to take his time over re-shuffles but will he remain in office long enough to complete this one?

Tory "wannabes" are circling their wagons but Graham Brady, the Chair of the Consevative MP's "1922 Committee" is yet to even load, let alone fire, the starting pistol.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon quietly holds an emergency Cabinet in Edinburgh, seeks direct talks with Brussels to keep my mother-land in the EU and draws up plans for a second independence referendum.

If she is successful, it is the end of the UK after three centuries.

I think I understated things when I spoke to Gena earlier.