As a Labour campaigner and now councillor, I’ve always been clear that I support the EU and voted to remain in the 2016 referendum. I have said many time that I would work hard to minimise the negative impact of Brexit on Trumpington and the whole of Cambridge. While leaving the EU now seems inevitable, there are many issues to consider.
First, it seems to me that there’s a strong case to investigate the 2016 referendum, and that the Electoral Commission is not equipped to do this. In August over 50 MPs and peers wrote to the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency asking them to investigate the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns, and I support this too. If an investigation discovers that the referendum was compromised then we have to ask whether we want to rerun it under more careful supervision, or not.
It would be simplest if the Article 50 process could be paused until these investigations were complete, but the political reality is that this is very unlikely to happen – neither the British government nor the EU27 seem to see it as a possibility.
Since it seems unlikely that there will be an investigation, we should ask what else can be done.
The 2016 referendum was, of course, the *second* EU referendum, after the one that took place in 1975, so those who claim we could not have a ‘second’ referendum because ‘the people have spoken’ are wrong as a matter of historical fact. However I do not think that a rerun of the same question would be useful or would begin to resolve any of the divisions that we see in the country today.
However giving people a chance to express their view on the final deal that emerges from the current Brexit process is a very different thing: nobody who voted in the 2016 referendum had any idea which of the many possible ways of leaving the EU would in fact come to pass – and it looks as if the one that has emerged is among the most disruptive and damaging
Like many people I think that a plan that undermines the Good Friday agreement is completely unacceptable. I also want to see my children enjoy opportunities throughout Europe, and want to welcome fellow Europeans to come to or remain in this country.
So I support the campaign for a People’s Vote, as the only way to resolve the current situation. It’s not ideal, but as the government has failed to deliver on any of the Brexit promises it made to those who voted to leave, while completely disregarding the views of those of us who voted to remain and always wanted to maintain a close relationship with the EU after departure, I think we need to be able to express our view before we take an irrevocable step.
It’s not surprising that after decades of hearing only negative things about the EU from much of the media and having politicians blame the EU for their own policy failures, there was an enormous negative sentiment towards the EU in this country. The attempts by David Cameron to reframe our relationship with the EU were never going to succeed because the divisions in his own party constantly undermined them. I would like to see Britain as a force for reform inside the EU, not a third country with no voice.
Lastly, it’s worth reflecting that all of the time and energy we’re spending thinking of how to disentangle the UK from the EU is time we’re not spending dealing with real issues in our society. One of the most pressing, and one I consider a lot, is how to minimise climate change and how we cope as well as possible with its effects. Of course, even here we’re far more likely to be able to take effective action as part of the wider EU than as a country going it alone. We’re also much more likely to be able to guarantee food security as part of a larger trading bloc. And of course, the EU has done an enormous amount to secure peaceful relations between the member states – something we should never forget
So I support a People’s Vote – and I will be campaigning to remain inside the EU if at all possible. If not, I’ll work to make the best of whatever other outcome is chosen.