Opinion: Gove's Brexit is one giant game of Risk

Michael Gove believes once Britain leaves the EU, other member states will follow.
Michael Gove believes once Britain leaves the EU, other member states will follow.

Michael Gove made THE definitive speech on leaving the EU this morning and it was a moment of grandeur we were instructed not to forget.

In a sweltering room overlooking the Thames, the nerve centre of the Vote Leave campaign no less, journalists and members of the public were funnelled in to listen to Michael Gove, the anti-EU messiah.

Under glaring spotlights and dressed in a dapper non-Tory blue spotted tie, the Justice Secretary spoke for 40 minutes on why life would be better outside of the EU.

The warm-up act, Matthew Elliott, the CEO of Vote Leave, told us that when "historians come to write about this referendum" Mr Gove's speech would be the one committed to the textbooks.

So being well warned to immerse ourselves in this moment of British political history, we were sat attentively as Mr Gove rattled through the inner workings of his childhood fantasies.

This was the board game Risk being played out in the political strategist's head, live, for all to witness.

"It is a fact that the EU is a multi-national federation with no democratically elected leader of Government, with policies decided by a central bureaucracy, with a mock Parliament which enjoys no popular mandate for action and with peripheries which are either impoverished or agitating for secession....

"It's a fact that also describes Austria-Hungary under the Hasburgs, the Russian Empire under Nicholas the Second, Rome under its later Emperors or the Ottoman Empire in its final years," he said.

The absolute failure of ever closer union is prophecy in Mr Gove's world. He would like us to imagine that in no point in history has greater integration with our European neighbours ever helped anyone. Just think about poor old Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Mocking the Remain campaign's description of life in Britain after leaving the EU, he made sure he took it one step further to the ridiculous by parodying their warnings.

"The City of London would become a ghost town, or manufacturing industries would be sanctioned more punitively than even communist North Korea...poverty worse than the potato famine," joked Mr Gove, his fan-club laughing dutifully along.

He wants us instead to be upbeat and positive about the future. In fact so positive that what Britain does next could actually be a blueprint for the rest of Europe.

And this is where his very credible arguments on the frustrations of the European Court of Justice and other unaccountable EU constitutions started to plummet into more balmy territory.

This most excellent politician was suddenly the small Scottish child sprawled over a game of Risk, armed propped up on well worn classics textbook on the past empires of Europe.

Mr Gove the 48-year-old said: "While [Brexit] might provoke both angst and even resentment among EU elites, the UK's success will send a very different message to the EU's peoples. They will see that a different Europe is possible.

"Yes there will be contagion if Britain leaves the EU. But what will be catching is democracy."

However his inner ten-year-old really meant: "If I move this my troops this way, I can bring down all of Europe!"

Once the doorway is opened onto the sun-dappled future of being free from the EU member states will surely follow.

Vote Leave's far more audacious campaign director Dominic Cummings was asked if Mr Gove would be happy if other EU nations had their own referendum on membership in the future.

"Sure he would be.

And asked if a by-product of Britain leaving would be the end of the EU as we know it?

He replied: "Certainly."

There's always an expectation of verbal shenanigans and intellectual clout that UKIP's Nigel Farage could only dream of mustering when talking about leaving the EU, but Mr Gove really did surpass himself with this keynote address. He did put forward an extremely coherent argument that was engaging and would make sense to a lot of voters.

But I also saw one giant game of Risk, without the weapons of course, being played out childishly inside Mr Gove's head. With his speech, Brexit is phase 1 in a pan-European effort to collapse this latest empire of history.

Kate Proctor is the Westminster Correspondent for the Yorkshire Post.