This week I and four other colleagues from the north east, all representing constituencies that voted to leave the EU in 2016 stated our support for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. In doing so, we have unleashed a fierce debate in a part of the country where it has been too often assumed that minds have been made up about Brexit.
The last thing I want to see happen is another EU referendum. What I do want to see is a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal negotiated between the British government and the EU. That deal will set the country’s economic prospects for decades to come.
The irony is, all the economic impact assessments, including the government’s own, state that it is the Brexit areas such as the north east that will be hit the hardest. My colleagues and I, who are calling for a people’s vote on the deal, are simply arguing that since the Brexit is the most important issue facing the British people since the Second World War, they should have the final say on the terms of the deal. After all, it is not only us but our children and grandchildren that will have to face the consequences. I believe the request is therefore reasonable.
If there is an industrial dispute, and a ballot of union members is in favour of strike action, negotiations follow. The deal that follows from the negotiations is put to the union members in a vote on the deal. The vote is not a re-run of the original ballot. It is a vote to resolve the matter once and for all.
As far as Brexit is concerned, some argue that such a demand is thwarting the will of the people and is undemocratic. But how can wanting to give people a vote be thwarting their will? How can it be against democracy? It is as if democracy ended on 23 June 2016. Yet it didn’t; there was a general election last year. The government fought the election on a Brexit platform. As a result they lost their majority and people said “no” to a hard Brexit.
Both the Tories and Labour are split. The cabinet can’t agree. The House of Lords keep defeating the Government. Jacob Rees-Mogg is the poster boy for the Brexit cause. I don’t know about you, but that frightens the life out of me.
So, I definitely believe the people should have a final vote on the deal. It’s in their interest to make the final decision because, unlike Rees-Mogg, the vast majority are not wealthy enough to weather failure.
Phil Wilson is the Labour MP for Sedgefield and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign.