A People’s Vote can pull us back from the brink

23

Oct

On Saturday I joined 700,000 people – young and old, and from across the political spectrum – to call for a vote on the final Brexit deal. For the 16 million people who voted Remain, it was a feel-good occasion, with a renewed sense of optimism in the air. As the Brexit process hurtles towards a calamitous conclusion, and despite accounting for a fraction under half of the vote, Remainers have for too long been treated as losers without any right to a voice.

The march will send a strong message to the whole country that a vote on the final deal is not only desirable, but necessary to break the fundamental political deadlock that is crippling Westminster. Even the most ardent Brexiteers, such as Next chairman Lord Wolfson, are saying that a hard Brexit will be a disaster from which the country will struggle to recover. It does not have to be like this.

There is an obvious counterpoint to the suggestion of a vote: “You’re just trying to overturn the result of the referendum.” Well, it is true to say that the vast majority of Remainers would once again vote Remain, should the referendum be re-run tomorrow. But this is not a second referendum. This is about giving people a say on the actuality of the deal on offer to Britain; a chance to consider whether it is indeed favourable to crashing out of the negotiations without an agreement on critical issues of trade, security and sovereignty.

Presented with this binary choice, I believe that there is only one logical conclusion. We stand on the verge of paying a £39 billion bill to Europe, just to grease the wheels of our exit from the EU. That’s a world apart from the mythical £350 million a week we could supposedly free up and give to the NHS, in the event of Brexit. A £2,500 bill, per family of four? This is not the land of milk and honey we were promised in June 2016.

And what about trade deals, 66% of which we will lose in one fell swoop upon our exit from the EU? As a small island of 65 million people, we rely on goods from all over the world. After two years of negotiations, the government is reduced to contingency planning for the stockpiling of basic foods and medical supplies. In a parallel universe, we might have negotiated more favourable terms for ourselves moving forward. That has not happened – so why should we blithely agree to make ourselves worse off, and to plunge 150,000 export-facing businesses in this country (employing four million people) into uncertainty?

Why sacrifice our economic future, all for the sake of an ill-defined, damaging Brexit? That is the option on the table. Having been so badly let down by this government’s disastrous negotiating strategy, a People’s Vote is the only legitimate way to once and for all make a decision on the future direction of this country.


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