We have the character of an island nation: independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.
Taken as a whole, Europe's share of world output is projected to fall by almost a third in the next two decades. This is the competitiveness challenge - and much of our weakness in meeting it is self-inflicted. Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon.
Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from the Western Approaches to the Aegean. And while we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union - to secure peace - has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside Nato, who made that happen.
The EU must be able to act with the speed and flexibility of a network, not the cumbersome rigidity of a bloc. We must not be weighed down by an insistence on a one size fits all approach which implies that all countries want the same level of integration. The fact is that they don't and we shouldn't assert that they do.
People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. They resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation. And they wonder what the point of it all is. Put simply, many ask 'why can't we just have what we voted to join - a common market?'