An outspoken Remainer has called for Britain to ‘revisit’ the Brexit referendum after the coronavirus pandemic.
Author Phillip Pullman said that politics ‘had to change’ in response to Covid-19, and called on the Labour Party to help re-frame the argument about Brexit.
In a blog post, His Dark Materials writer Pullman condemned the government for trying to ‘appease the foaming zealots of Brexit’ rather than properly tackling coronavirus.
‘If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, fly-blown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, the same vain and indolent public schoolboys in charge, the same hedge fund managers stuffing their overloaded pockets with greasy fingers, our descendants will not forgive us.’
He continued: ‘There are so many clear advantages to being in the EU, and the benefits of leaving are so tenuous and fanciful, that we must revisit the referendum and hope that this time the Labour Party under a new leader will play a proper part in the argument; and that the lies, the cheating, the flagrant and shameless mendacity will be fully exposed by a strong, passionate, and focused campaign to remain.’
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His comments came as Brexiteer and Spectator columnist Rod Liddle appeared on talkRADIO to dryly tell host Kevin O’Sullivan that he expected the calls to grow, in light of the way coronavirus has impacted politics and society.
He said: ‘It wouldn’t surprise me hugely if the Remain side asked for another referendum, quite soon, it genuinely wouldn’t.’
The campaign for a second referendum was scuppered by the general election, which produced an 80-strong majority in the House of Commons for Boris Johnson.
At the same time as the election a number of splits formed in the People’s Vote campaign, provoking calls for a rethink.
But a number of key voices are now calling for an extension to the Brexit transition period including mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the International Monetary Fund and the Scottish government, which could lead to fresh thinking on the matter.
A poll from Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate found widespread support for a ‘long’ extension to allow the government to fully tackle the coronavirus, with two-thirds supporting such a proposal, including 49% of Leavers.
Previously Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis have called for a ‘decision referendum’ where the public ratifies the terms and conditions of whatever was agreed with Brussels.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab also made a similar argument, claiming we could have ‘two referendums for the price of one’.