In the three years since the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU it feels as if we’ve talked of little else. But I’ve been struck recently, and most notably at Saturday’s special Parliamentary sitting, by how rarely we hear anyone speak of the so-called Brexit “benefits” anymore.
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove travelled the country on their red bus during the referendum campaign shouting about the wonderful deals we were going to secure and the huge investment that was going to pour into our National Health Service after years of austerity.
They promised the world, yet three years of gridlock and two Prime Ministers on what we’re being offered is a botched deal that would leave our country poorer and less influential on the world stage, put jobs, workers’ rights and environmental protections at risk and potentially offer up our precious National Health Service in US trade talks.
What the Johnson and Gove double act seem to be banking on is fatigue. Their sales pitch to Members of Parliament was if we just get this done, we can move on, talk about something else, put it behind us. It’s as much a lie as their “£350 million a week for our NHS” was on the side of that bus, because even if this withdrawal agreement did edge through Parliament it puts nothing behind us. Instead, it would only be the beginning of years of torturous negotiations on customs, tariffs and regulations done so from a position of weakness outside of the EU.
The only way to genuinely put this mess behind us is to go back to the people in a final say referendum. It’s something I’ve long supported and voted for at every opportunity in Parliament. If Johnson is so sure of his deal why is he so afraid of putting it to a public vote? Probably because he’s well aware that the wafer-thin 2016 mandate no longer exists, and whilst places like Hornsey & Wood Green have always been staunchly remain, recent polling overwhelmingly reveals that in another referendum the majority of people across the UK would vote to remain in the EU.
I voted against triggering Article 50 back in 2017 and on Saturday I backed the Letwin amendment forcing the PM to request an extension to prevent us crashing out on 31 October. Crucially this extra time gives us an opportunity to properly hold this Government and its plans to account and to try and attach a second referendum amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s something Labour will be pushing for and I will continue doing all I can to make sure we succeed.
A lot has happened since 2016. The Vote Leave campaign has been found to have acted illegally, the costs of leaving the European Union are much more widely known and two million young voters who didn’t get a say last time have now turned 18. They’re the ones who will live longest with the impact of a damaging Brexit. If even the architects of this Brexit mess can’t sell its supposed “benefits” to the British people anymore, let’s stop this mistake before it’s too late.