The independent London newspaper

Politicians have failed, so put Brexit to a new People’s Vote

27 July, 2018

• WHEN a small majority of those voting in the 2016 Referendum voted to leave the EU, between them they were voting for a whole range of wishes.

Some wanted migration to be more tightly managed. Some wanted an end to austerity. Some wanted to free Parliament from what they saw as the dead hand of Brussels. Some wanted more jobs for local people in depressed areas.

Some wanted to give the UK a major economic and cultural shock from which it would eventually emerge stronger. Some wanted to return to a simpler, more English way of life.

Some wanted to create a planned economy based on nationalisation and state subsidies. Some wanted an end to bureaucracy and political correctness.

Many wanted to strengthen the NHS. Many wanted to keep our existing trading relationship with the EU. Lots simply wanted to give David Cameron a bloody nose.

Ever since the referendum, both the Conservative and Labour parties have been turning themselves inside-out, trying to work out how to deliver at least the main goals.

The trouble is, many of the goals are in conflict with each other: there’s no way they can all be delivered together.

The NHS can’t be strengthened if it loses half its staff and has trouble getting a full range of medicines and radiotherapy materials. Jobs in depressed areas are much likelier to be lost than gained if we cut ourselves off from EU grants.

We can’t expand international trade if we move to a full-blown planned economy. We can’t end austerity if we deliberately shrink the economy and reduce tax receipts – unless we’re happy to store up major problems for the younger generation to sort out later.

These are very real dilemmas, and we should appreciate the massive efforts that have been made, on both sides of the political divide, to square the circle.

They haven’t been helped by internal party divisions, that’s for sure. But give them credit. Politicians and their advisers have, in their very different ways, been doing their utmost to respect the referendum mandate.

But it can’t be done: the circle can’t be squared. We should never have been asked – before it was much clearer what was involved – whether it was actually Brexit we needed or maybe a more deliverable agenda for change.

It’s time for our politicians to be frank and say: “We’ve tried every-which-way, but we can’t deliver a Brexit that pleases all Brexiters, let alone saves the country from growing division.”

They need a new mandate, a People’s Vote, to settle whether we plough on with Brexit regardless, or draw back and develop a more practicable agenda to improve people’s lives.



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