Richard Corbett: Let’s give the people a final say on the terms of Brexit

Labour and Brexit

The likelihood of a vote in Parliament on Brexit has caused much comment on the degree to which MPs and peers, or indeed political parties, are mandated by the referendum result.

Any instruction from the referendum can only be to secure a Brexit that works for Britain and maybe even bears some resemblance to the promises made by the Leave campaign.

If Brexit looks like it will fall short of that, especially if it tanks the economy or removes key rights from citizens that they were assured would be safe, then it should be opposed.

This is not disrespecting the referendum result – although many people do ask why an advisory referendum won by a narrow majority on the basis of lies and a questionable franchise should be respected at all. It is in fact upholding what people were promised – and if that is impossible, to act accordingly, by opposing Brexit on the wrong terms or by giving the people a chance to reconsider or confirm.

Of course, some people voted for Brexit-at-any-cost, but others voted for the Brexit-at-no-cost that they were promised by Boris Johnson, Gove, Fox et al.  As when you are sold a pig in a poke, you should be able to say you don’t want it after all.

That is why Labour should avoid saying that Brexit is settled. If Brexit is taking Britain over the precipice, it is perfectly legitimate to oppose it.

DB Cargo UK, whose headquarters are in my constituency of Yorkshire, recently announced 893 redundancies. The Aslef trade union was told that this was down to the Brexit effect, which has seen investment decisions delayed or cancelled.

Similar decisions are likely across the country, in manufacturing, financial services, education, research and more – especially if the government pursues the “hard Brexit” of also walking out of the single market and customs union.

It is no good simply shrugging your shoulders and parroting that Britain voted to leave the EU, so it must do so, whatever the cost. If it is not possible to leave in a way that allows our industrial base to grow and generate jobs, which protects our rights, and which gives Britain a say in decisions that affect it, then we should not be bullied by tabloids, the government or UKIP into meekly acquiescing with a political and economic catastrophe.

That is why the demand for a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit deal is reasonable.  People should be allowed to vote on Brexit in the full knowledge of what actually entails rather than just on the concept, portrayed as it was in Panglossian terms back in June.

Labour should have the courage to stand up for what is right for Britain, which will be welcomed not just by the bulk of the 48 per cent (including most Labour voters) who voted to remain, but also many of the 52 per cent who are entitled to say that what is happening does not match what they were promised.

Richard Corbett is MEP for Yorkshire and Humber and deputy leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament.

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