My own view is that Brexit is a betrayal of conservatism, because we are withdrawing from the most well-constructed market in the world. It obviously denies the Union, because any Brexit will mean an open border with open migration and products moving freely. Ultimately, that will not work. If we have a hard Brexit, there will be a hard border. I also think that Brexit is a betrayal of socialism, because it will mean a smaller cake that we will want to divide more equally, and it will leave a future Tory Government to undermine EU standards and workers’ rights and the environment in the future.
I make no apology for the fact that I am against Brexit and always was. I want a people’s vote because people’s eyes have now opened to the fact that this is an absolute nightmare. They voted for the steak, they got the bacon, and they do not want it. They want to stay with what they had before.
Furthermore, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 itself empowers the Prime Minister to trigger article 50 on the basis of an advisory referendum. What we have found, and what the courts have found, is that the illegality in the leave campaign would be sufficient for a general election to be ruled void and for the Government to go back to the drawing board. I think that they need, legally, to think again about article 50, and if a deal cannot be agreed, they should withdraw it.
People talk about what will happen if there is another vote. Incidentally, this will not be another vote; it will be a vote on the deal, which is intrinsically different from a vote in principle on whether people want to stay in the European Union. I accept that people wanted to leave on the basis of what they were told, but now that they have seen what has turned up—the bacon—they do not want to eat it, and they should have the right to send it back. That would not be the same as just having another referendum. As Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.” People say, “What if we had another vote and lost?” We have already lost. Britain will lose if we Brexit.
People say that there will be a lot of anger. Obviously there will be some anger, but people who have been made poorer and poorer by a Conservative Government since 2010 were told, “If you vote for Brexit, we will get rid of the foreigners, and you will have a better job and better services.” In fact, they will have less. They will be even poorer. Those people will not be angry; they will be massively enraged.
We are walking slowly along the road to fascism. That is what is happening in this country. We face a choice between being impoverished and isolated—going down a darkened tunnel with no apparent ending—and seeing the future and returning to the sunny uplands. That means joining the EU again, giving the people the choice as to what to do, and creating a better, stronger future for all our children.
We are at a moment in history when we have to choose whether we give the people a vote or not. Our children will either condemn us in the future for condemning them or will thank us for giving them the opportunity to choose their future in a much better world we can all share—a world in which we can defend our shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, rather than be cast aside, be much weaker, and find those values, in an uncertain world, under attack.