Why we should all be given a chance to vote again

The People's Vote
Photo: PA / Jonathan Brady

The People's Vote Photo: PA / Jonathan Brady - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The New European Editor MATT KELLY explains why now is the time to get behind a People's Vote on the future of UK-EU relations

We are, demonstrably, already a vassal state.

Not a state held in thrall to the European project, but held in thrall to the politics of the weakest government since Henry VI.

Two years of progress-free Westminster shenanigans, and for what?

Power. Nothing so grand as power within the nation, because nobody can boast that – so stymied are we by this political chess game. But merely power within one's own party.

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How truly pathetic.

And closing in on the rails in the pathetic stakes comes Labour.

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This week's 'full access to the single market, but abstention on the European Economic Area' is the latest slow-motion fudge from Labour's front bench and is nothing to do with protecting Britain from the unwise decision to Brexit.

It's hard to make sense of Labour's position – unless you consider that Jeremy Corbyn is as infected by his willingness to put party unity ahead of Britain's interests as Theresa May.

As Alastair Campbell, this newspaper's editor-at-large, put it in response to Sir Keir Starmer's baffling explanation of Labour's new position: 'Contriving to help the government survive when they say they want to bring it down; giving Tory rebels reason not to rebel; ignoring members when they say they listen to them; doing the wrong thing by country; presenting an option that doesn't exist. Mindblowing election-losing stuff.'

Mindblowing indeed.

In January, this newspaper argued that a parliamentary resolution to Brexit was preferable to a People's Vote. We argued it was time for MPs across all parties to take responsibility for the referendum result and to emulate courageous decisions of the past that may have defied public opinion, but which were taken for the greater good of the nation.

Labour's position this week, just when we were in grave danger of coalescing such a cross-party willingness, shows that hope to be fanciful. It truly is all about party politics. And the country is the loser.

We were daft to think it was anything otherwise.

If we had the five years of a government cycle to resolve Brexit, we'd be fine – relatively. The temporary damage we're causing ourselves – the lack of progress on the real issues retarding this nation, the dampening of the economy, the threat to continental security – could be reversed.

But we don't have that luxury. Just when Britain needs bold, decisive leadership we have May and Corbyn. Weak and incompetent on the one hand, cynical and narrow-minded on the other.

The only mitigation either of them have in this farce is that the enormous complexities of Brexit were in part unforeseeable. Although, it is the politicians' job to know – to channel Donald Rumsfeld – that there would be unknown unknowns.

So, if we are still unravelling all those complexities, how can anyone claim that the British public knew what they were voting for on June 23, 2016?

If the combined forces of the government and the opposition still, to this day, almost two years on from the vote, cannot decide what Brexit means, how can they pretend they have a meaningful mandate at all?

It isn't elitist to suggest that the British public were ignorant of the issues when they voted in 2016. Empty-headed claims that everyone knew what they voted for are just that.

Nobody knew what they were voting for.

Which is why now, after two years of fierce debate, the time is right for an informed vote. A second referendum, a People's Vote, a first referendum on the deal – whatever you want to call it – is the only way to bring this country back together.

Now that we've all been exposed the realities of Brexit, we should all be given a chance to vote again. That for the very first time in this long, sorry, mess we had the opportunity to see past what George Orwell called the 'mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia' of British politics, and truly decide for ourselves.

Win or lose, this is a decision we could all accept. And finally move on to get on with the rest of our lives.

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