Circumstances have changed, Lord Falconer - it's time for a People's Vote

PUBLISHED: 15:12 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:16 11 December 2018

Without a swift shift of focus there might not be a chance to have a second referendum... Photograph: Yui Mok.

Without a swift shift of focus there might not be a chance to have a second referendum... Photograph: Yui Mok.

PA Wire/PA Images

Labour peer Lord Falconer has claimed that there hasn't been a change of "circumstances" to warrant a People's Vote. CHEVAN ILANGARATNE explains why he is wrong.

Lord Falconer’s comments assume that the narrowly won EU referendum in 2016 was an accurate ‘democratic expression’ of what people wanted. Given Vote Leave broke the law by overspending – as found by the Electoral Commission, and the National Crime Agency have launched an investigation in to alleged Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, it is hard to say with certainty that the outcome was the ‘will of the people’ contrary to popular belief.

Supposing the leave outcome is the will of the people however, literally no one – leave or remain – could have predicted who would attempt to deliver Brexit and how. That being David Cameron resigning ushering in Mrs May as prime minister; that we would be on our third Brexit secretary after nearly two years of negotiations having triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without a robust plan; that there would be a pointless snap general election along the way handing the DUP power; that we would now be faced with a withdrawal agreement and a vague political declaration which effectively cedes control to Brussels, reduces access to the largest market in the world, and puts at risk our hard-won rights. Not to mention the divorce bill, and the sheer time and effort it will take time to implement the UK’s exit from the UK.

Although there were post-Brexit warnings from economists before the referendum, which granted were not all correct, we have now seen the government’s impact assessments which say that exiting the EU, under any model, will leave us poorer than we otherwise would have been by hurting our GDP. Moreover, we now have the facts of just how bad the pound has been hit by the Brexit uncertainty, and how many businesses and agencies have moved, or made plans to relocate to other countries due to Brexit.

Equally, promises made by the leave campaigns – both official and unofficial – have not come in to fruition, and are not likely to in were Brexit to proceed. Yes – we now know there is no extra £350 million per week for NHS courtesy of Brexit, no magical trade deals with other countries ready to sign on exit day, and no sovereignty reclaimed. Though many warned this would be the case during the referendum campaign, it is not inconceivable that people bought promises that were sold by senior politicians – experts in spin and persuasion.

The last thing, which must not be overlooked, is that it was not foreseeable how the government would use Brexit to side-line parliament contrary to the Brexiteer vision of making Westminster sovereign again. From the triggering of Article 50 which required litigation to force the government to allow parliament to authorise it, the government forcing businesses to sign NDAs about border arrangements, to attempted suppression of Brexit impact assessments, and most recently, advice from the attorney general, we now know that Brexit is not about sovereignty. It is ostensibly about the government of the day ignoring the will of the people as expressed through the legislature – as valuable checks and balances from the EU are washed away. Theresa May cancelling the much-anticipated meaningful vote on Tuesday is yet another example.

You may, after reading the above, still be convinced that Brexit is a good idea. That is fair enough, but it is difficult to argue, as Lord Falconer does, that there hasn’t been a “change of circumstances” since the plebiscite in 2016. So much more information, even beyond what is alluded to in this piece, has come to light in the last two and half years – and not only do we now know a great deal more about the benefits of EU membership, we also know how devastating any form of Brexit will be for this country.

And that’s why I urge Lord Falconer to reconsider his position and get behind a People’s Vote.

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