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View from the House: 'People's vote' necessary - despite vitriol

PUBLISHED: 10:30 24 January 2019

Chris McAndrew (Creative Commons licence CC BY 3.0)

Whichever way you voted in the Brexit referendum, I struggle to believe you could be happy with where we are now.

Hornsey and Wood Green secured one of the highest “remain” votes in the country back in 2016 and judging by the hundreds of emails I still receive each week on the subject, the belief that our country is making a very damaging mistake is only growing stronger.

That’s certainly my view. I voted against triggering Article 50 because I didn’t believe the government had a plan and was one of the first MPs to come out in favour of a public vote on the final deal with the option to remain. With the prime minister’s deal falling to an overwhelming historic defeat, I want to see that happen now.

There was always going to be a point when the lies and unachievable promises of the Brexit campaign caught up with reality: the trade deals that would be the “easiest in human history” and the promised prosperity that would see money pour into our National Health Service after years of Tory austerity.

People voted to leave for different reasons, but since the referendum result, the prime minister has tried to pretend they could have it all whilst refusing to acknowledge that her deal would leave our country poorer and governed by rules we no longer had a say in making. She has failed to reach out to remain voters in the House or across the country, failed to stand up for the three million EU citizens who have made the UK their home, and set negotiating “red lines” that meant her deal was always doomed to fail.

After comprehensively losing the vote, the PM stood up in Parliament and said we must “listen to the British people who want this issue settled”. I agree. But to my mind that means asking them what they want now, when it’s so much clearer what Brexit will actually mean for their lives, their jobs and their families.

Another referendum isn’t something I look forward to with any enthusiasm. The rise in vitriol in our national debate egged on by the images pushed out by Mr Farage of the “leave” campaign of a queue of refugees and the words “breaking point” was shameful. In the years since, the debate has continued to be angry and divisive. The appalling abuse so often targeted at women MPs is a worrying example of a growing intolerance to difference of opinion.

But that can’t be a reason to close down debate on an issue so critical for the future of our country. Nor can we afford to let more time run out. I supported Labour’s Yvette Cooper’s successful amendment to the Finance Bill which could restrict the government’s tax powers unless a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table. Yet whilst it’s clear there is no parliamentary majority for “no deal” that remains the default if agreement isn’t reached by March 29. It’s ludicrous that the government has failed to take this option off the table when it could lead to a catastrophic 8 per cent contraction in our economy.

The PM’s deal suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat in British history. It’s dead in the water and the government should now seek to extend Article 50 and propose legislation to prepare for a public vote.

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