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Brexit Is No Blank Cheque For Eurosceptics

07/09/2016 17:32
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The shock of the Brexit vote still feels raw for many. A slim majority of the electorate voted to leave, and since then its felt like the world is up in the air. Many who voted remain feel a sense of their identity being attacked; the stages of grief being worked through one by one. Campaigners from European Movement lined up to lobby their MPs yesterday afternoon, as Westminster Hall debated a petition signed by millions for a second referendum.

While we must accept the legitimacy of the vote, that doesn't mean we can't continue to put the argument of 16million Brits. Can you imagine if Brexit had lost, Nigel Farage turning up at the count and saying, "Oh, I won't do Question Time again in that case"? He'd sooner become a European Commissioner.

If those of us who backed remain don't make our arguments clearly and forcefully through the impending negotiations, we risk writing a blank cheque for the eurosceptics. During the referendum, the Leave camp were at pains to tell us they didn't know to set out specifics of a post-Brexit Britain, because this wasn't a manifesto. They won the EU vote - now they must be held to account on the ideas put forward.

The environment hardly featured in the referendum campaign. While the likes of Stanley Johnson (Boris's dad) and Bill Oddie were out on the campaign trail talking about the protections EU law gave us, most folk didn't factor it into their decision. It would be wrong for the government to now use Brexit to justify eroding our protections. People didn't vote out of the EU to see our green and pleasant land turned into Shanghai, or the air our kids breathe be more polluted because we're no longer bound by EU targets, or our beaches return to the filth they were infamous for in the 80s.

Nor did they vote leave with the expectation they'd lose rights at work. A limit to the hours we can be made to work in a week, annual leave and the right to leave for new mums have all been protected in no small part by EU legislation. These arguments were thrashed out through the referendum. When 52% voted out, they did so on assurances none of their rights would be compromised post-EU, but instead would be protected by a different parliament. Any efforts to erode the social protections Brits now take for granted would be an abuse of the referendum.

Freedom of movement remains deeply controversial for some. Theresa May appears to have dropped the idea of a points based immigration system - a key plank of the argument for many Brexit campaigners - but what will go in its place? If we're to have access to a market of 500 million punters to buy and sell with, then it seems unlikely we can escape the exchange of people with that. Opting out of these altogether could see serious damage to our economy, as Ken Clarke argued yesterday. It would be many of the very working class communities that voted out who would be hit hardest and fastest by a deflating British economy.

These are the red lines of Brexit European Movement UK is campaigning on. While the result which emerged in the early hours of that Friday morning was legitimate, an attempt to twist it into a Tory eurosceptic's fantasy would be an abuse of the British people's trust. The same people who voted in June deserve a referendum on the terms of Brexit if this happens. Not a re-run of what we had, but a chance to affirm or deter the realities of the Brexit we're offered.

If the Brexiters really can deliver what they promised, what are they so scared of?

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