As Boris Johnson tries to bypass parliament to force through a No Deal Brexit, Lilian Greenwood urges MPs of all parties to work together for the good of the country to give voters the final say on the Brexit deal.
On Tuesday MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid, the Greens and Change UK came together at Church House, pledging to work together to ensure the people’s voice is heard, but just 24 hours later Boris Johnson was threatening to prorogue Parliament for 4 weeks to limit the opportunities to stop no deal. There will be further twists and turns in the days and weeks ahead but the fundamentals remain the same.
There’s no question in my mind that when UK voters narrowly supported Leave in the 2016 referendum it was a rejection of 6 years of austerity. They could see that we were not “all in it together”. There was real anger that Ministers didn’t seem to care about the hardship they were facing and here was a perfect opportunity to kick the Government and secure change.
Some would argue that the dissatisfaction with ‘politics as usual’ went back further than 2010, and was far deeper, but either way, people’s grievances won’t be solved by changing our relationship with the EU, they demand a radical overhaul of domestic policy. But that’s a debate for another forum!
This must be a cross-party campaign. If the last few weeks under a new Prime Minister have taught us anything, it’s that those who oppose a catastrophic no-deal Brexit are going to have to work together. The numbers in Parliament give us no alternative.
It might feel uncomfortable. It might be difficult – especially when we could find ourselves fighting for votes in a general election in just a few weeks or months time. But the risks of no deal are so serious that it’s a necessity in the interests of the country.
In the past few weeks we’ve finally seen some of the Government’s own analysis of the likely impacts of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit in the leaked Operation Yellowhammer report: disruption at the Channel ports leading to shortages of fresh foods; possible delays to the supply of medicines and medical supplies; the imposition of tariffs hitting businesses and causing job losses; price rises for utilities, food and fuel and increased checks for UK citizens travelling to Europe. And it won’t just mean months of disruption and delay, it could have far-reaching effects on our economy for years to come. Our country and my constituents will be poorer.
This new information isn’t what led me to support a public vote but the argument is even more compelling now that the risks of leaving without adequate planning and agreement have become clearer.
In my view the argument for giving voters the final say is simple. It’s equally relevant whether you voted Leave or Remain in 2016 and it will make immediate sense to those who, like me, have a background in the Trade Union movement.
When I was a Trade Union rep, members would tell us what they wanted and when we’d completed negotiations we’d go back to the members and ask whether the deal was good enough. They could vote to accept it or reject it.
The voters told us in the referendum that they wanted to leave the EU but that negotiating mandate was based on upholding the promises made by the Leave campaign during the referendum.
They said leaving would be easy – it’s actually complex with numerous ramifications they kept quiet about.
They said it would save billions of pounds each year, cash that would go to fund the NHS – it’s actually costing a fortune, will hit our public finances and make it even harder to fund the services we care about.
They said there would be new trade deals with the rest of the world, ready on day one, to replace lost trade with Europe – in fact we’re losing the deals we currently have with such countries via the EU, negotiated with the clout that being part of the single market brings.
They said it would help our economy – in fact we’re losing jobs in manufacturing and services alike.
So having reached the end of the negotiating process, the Government needs to do what every decent Trade Union rep would do – go back to those who gave them the mandate and ask whether the outcome – the deal or no deal – is good enough.
I don’t really like the term ‘People’s Vote’ or even ‘second referendum’. It’s actually a confirmatory vote. The public told Government to negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on being a trading partner rather than a member. Government should have the confidence to ask the public what they think of their efforts. The voters should have the final say.
Some have suggested that a new public vote is a Remain plot or claimed that it’s anti-democratic – but that makes no sense. All voters get a say, not just those who voted Remain in 2016! Of course this would also provide an opportunity for the voters who were too young to participate in the referendum in 2016 to have a say. They will have to live with the consequences for longest.
Yes, my view is clear, I don’t think any deal with the EU would be better than the one we have as members, but I’m only one voter. Leavers can vote to accept the deal if they think it’s good enough. The key point is that everyone gets a chance to have their say on the terms of our withdrawal – it couldn’t be more democratic. And in my view that’s worth fighting for.