The independent London newspaper

Strong case for giving public a vote on Brussels deal

29 June, 2018

• STEPHEN Southam asks why so many MPs approved the EU Referendum Bill in 2015, (It’s a bunch of Remainers who never seem to be off our television screens who are to blame for Brexit, June 22).

One might well ask why, when our entry to the Common Market had been overwhelmingly supported in the 1973 referendum, another referendum was needed. The answer, as any Brexiter will tell us, is that things had changed since the first referendum.

The debates in Parliament in 2015 nevertheless show that MPs had grave doubts about settling such a momentous matter on a simple majority of those voting. No other liberal democracy would adopt such a slack test for major constitutional change.

MPs’ doubts were allayed only when the then Leader of the House, David Lidding­ton, assured them clearly and firmly that the referendum would be purely advisory: it would not constitute a mandate.

There’s a nice read-across here to Richard Rosser’s letter drawing attention to other misleading statements (to put it politely) made by the government, (Surreal Tory claim that ‘fair taxation’ will give NHS extra billions, June 22).

Much has changed, again, since the 2016 referendum. On the geopolitical stage, we have Trump’s trade war, Putin’s increasing aggression, China’s growing dominance and other global developments casting doubt on whether the UK can really go it alone.

Meanwhile, warnings given in 2016 on the effect of Brexit on the UK economy, security, peace in Northern Ireland, jobs, the environment and much else look solider by the day, while claims made on the Brexit side look increasingly threadbare.

There’s no case for a re-run of 2016’s ill-conceived in/out referendum. But there’s a strong case for giving the public a new vote on whatever (if anything) emerges by way of a deal from the government’s negotiations with Brussels.

And hopefully this time MPs would insist on arrangements specifying we’ll take the plunge into the unknown only if authorised by a supermajority.



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