There's no reason to fear a final say referendum
Bremain in Spain chair Sue Wilson explains why
March 29, 2018, Valencia, Spain. Press Dispensary. The thought of the public having another say in the Brexit debate fills many Remain supporters with horror. The last referendum didn’t go as we hoped and only succeeded in proving that the public should never be trusted with important decisions, especially when vital facts are in short supply and misinformation is in abundance.
At the Great Northern March in Leeds on Saturday 24 March, attended by an estimated 10,000+ people, a common theme was the need to secure a final say on the Brexit deal for the British public. The Leeds event was part of a nationwide series of demonstrations to commemorate the half-way point in the Article 50 process. Speakers included Professor AC Grayling, Lord Adonis, Jonathan Bartley, co-head of the Green Party, and MEP Richard Corbett.
Ensuring the public has a final say on whatever deal Theresa May and David Davis manage to hatch is a common goal for anti-Brexit national campaign groups. None of these groups have much confidence in parliament making the decision on our behalf, especially when the position of the Labour party is barely distinguishable from the position of the government.
The most common accusation levelled at Remainers by Leave voters and the government alike is that we do not respect democracy. However, what could be more democratic than asking the people their opinion? Life-changing decisions are being made, based on the supposed "will of the people", but only regarding that frozen moment in time 21 months ago. Now that we’re in possession of a great deal more information on the potential impact of Brexit, people are entitled to change their minds and to have their voices heard again.
The march in Leeds was a clear demonstration that those fighting Brexit are as angry now as they were on 23 June 2016, and that campaigners are not giving up anytime soon. There’s a sense of optimism that we can make a difference and an understanding of the challenges we face. Yes, there is also apathy and acceptance from many people who just want Brexit to be over, regardless of how they voted. But there's also a growing movement of ex-Leave voters who have realised the Brexit for which they voted is a fantasy and that they were fed lies on an industrial scale.
Securing another referendum against the wishes of both major parties will be no mean feat but the idea is gaining momentum with politicians and the public alike and has considerable support in the House of Lords. With the weight of large anti-Brexit groups - such as Best for Britain, Britain for Europe and European Movement – campaigning to this end, it's an achievable goal, as well as a desirable one. It should be a prospect that appeals to both sides of the Brexit debate but it also strikes fear on both sides. The Leavers fear that their "win" will be overturned and their Brexit dreams quashed. The Remainers fear another campaign of lies and misinformation and, of course, the prospect of losing again. A further defeat would surely guarantee that Brexit would proceed.
Why, exactly, should we push to have a vote and why will the result be different this time around? Well, we do know a lot more about the impact of Brexit than we did 21 months ago, not least from the government's own assessment analyses, despite attempts to keep them secret. It’s also clear that the promised Brexit bears no resemblance to Brexit reality, and that the government can never deliver a deal even close to the existing one.
We would be going into a second vote with our eyes open and a better idea of what our cross on the ballet paper means. We know that Leavers had many different reasons for their vote – a major one was to protest about the government and its policies, including austerity. A protest last time meant a vote to leave: this time, it would be a vote to reject the deal and remain in the EU.
The government has limited options for moving Brexit forward. If it pursues a hard Brexit with WTO rules, it seriously risks failing to secure parliamentary approval. This would most likely result in a referendum, putting the decision firmly in the hands of the public and washing the government’s hands of any responsibility. Or, it could soften its stance and May could jettison her red lines and pursue a soft Brexit. This is also unlikely to gain parliamentary approval, and would raise questions regarding “what is the point of leaving the EU?”.
David Davis said that when new facts come to light, we should reconsider, and that it is democratic to change one’s mind. We must ensure that giving the public the final say, when it knows what the deal looks like, is the only sane course of action. We must keep all options on the table and guarantee that any vote in parliament or on the streets includes the option to remain in the EU, with the deal we have now. The only way to start healing the divisions caused by Brexit is to offer the people another voice.
The public dropped us into this mess, only the public can get us out of it.
Chair – Bremain in Spain
26th March 2018
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Notes for editors
For further information please contact
Sue Wilson, Chair
Tel: + 34 696 056 328
Deputy Press Officer
Tel: + 44 7549 504281
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