THE Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, was right when he said a “pure Brexit” was a “childish dream” and that “no serious politician should have entertained it.” But he is simply wrong when he warned in The Yorkshire Post last week that holding a People’s Vote on Brexit risks “civil unrest”.
MPs have a duty to make sure that we stand up for the best interests of our constituents. It is clear from recent surveys that public opinion has moved on Brexit. Nearly every constituency in Great Britain now backs the public having a final say on Brexit.
Therefore, contrary to the comments made by Dr Sentamu, not allowing the British public a final say on what is the most important decision this country has made in 70 years would be wrong and lead to years of resentment, not just with many present-day electors but also with generations yet to reach voting age.
People were told in the 2016 referendum that we would be healthier, wealthier and freer outside of the EU. The gap between the promises made and the reality of what’s being delivered is huge and it’s for that reason we need to take the question back to the people.
But households across Yorkshire are already facing bigger bills because of the falling value in the pound. Workers are now finding their jobs could be at risk, as companies consider closing factories or have held off investment because they cannot be sure about Britain’s long-term future after Brexit.
Brexit campaigners claimed that leaving the EU would be the ‘easiest deal in history’, and that Brexit would mean the exact same benefits as being in the EU; free trade deals around the world; no role in the UK for the European Court of Justice; no longer following EU rules and no longer paying into the EU budget, meaning an extra £350m a week for the NHS.
But the Government’s Brexit deal now shows every single one of those key promises will be broken – not because the Government won’t keep all the promises made for Brexit, but because those promises can’t be kept.
The deal shows there’s no form of Brexit that can deliver all those fantasy promises. You can’t have your cake and eat it – you can’t keep all the benefits of being in the EU without following the rules.
This deal is humiliating for the UK because we stand to lose all the benefits of being an EU member, without getting anything the Leave campaign promised.
I respect the outcome of the 2016 poll. But much has changed in the two and a half years since the referendum and the realities of what Brexit really means are now shockingly clear. Nobody voted for a Brexit that will see Britain giving away control and leaving people poorer.
We were promised the exact same benefits plus more outside the EU but what we’ve seen is Britain losing out, taking a back seat in Europe.
Take the £50bn divorce bill, payable to settle our EU debts. That’s a vast sum to hand over, with no guarantee of the future relationship required to protect us from entering a backstop agreement. Even the Prime Minister’s top officials have said this is a ‘bad outcome’.
As if that’s not enough the former Brexit Secretary, the man supposed to be responsible for this deal, has said it is worse than staying in the EU.
Westminster is in gridlock, with the Prime Minister’s deal facing defeat in the Commons and no deal being rejected by all sides of the House.
In that context, it’s clear we need to navigate a new way forward, and that way forward is the People’s Vote.
What I am clear about is that this would not be a re-run of the 2016 referendum.
Rather, what I advocate is a confirmation from the people that the terms on which it is proposed the UK should leave the EU are what they envisaged, with the option to stay in the EU as the alternative.
The challenge facing MPs is obvious, but there is a way forward. A People’s Vote, giving the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal, would add democratic validity to the outcome of the Brexit process.
Angela Smith is the Labour MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge. She is a People’s Vote supporter.