Time to give the Lion’s roar

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At this time, it is particularly fitting that, all this month, the British and Irish Lions have been on tour in New Zealand.

Amid the political upheavals – set against recent appalling tragedies – sport can provide a vital source of respite and relief, hope and joy.

But it can do much more than that, and we would be wise to heed the lessons which it can teach. The passion for rugby in New Zealand is a wonderful reminder of the shared heritage which Britain enjoys with countries across the world, and particularly with the Commonwealth and Anglosphere.

We are united by language, culture, customs and values and, as we leave the European Union, such common bonds of friendship should remind those who perceive Brexit as the preserve of “little Englanders” that the United Kingdom has always been a global nation, and will always aspire to be so.

Perhaps a still more profound lesson, though, is what the trials and tribulations of the Lions tour can teach us about how we measure our successes and mark our shortcomings – how we meet with Kipling’s “triumph and disaster”.

Rugby Union is, of course, a celebration of resourcefulness, endurance, and courage in the face of adversity. But, above all, it is an exercise in resolute teamwork.

The Lions have scored notable victories in New Zealand, but also suffered a chastening defeat to the All Blacks in their first encounter. Yet, in spite of their results, the team – drawn from all parts of the British Isles – remains united in pursuit of its cause, winning – and losing – together.

The parallels for politics are obvious. The Government – which comprises English, Welsh and Scottish Ministers – is united in its mission, and has the support of Northern Irish MPs in our shared belief as Unionists that we are stronger together and greater than the sum of our parts.

Our task now is to unite the country as we negotiate the terms of Brexit and set out a bold, prosperous vision of our future outside the EU.

We are now called, as Churchill said, “to give the lion’s roar.”