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One Year On From The Brexit Vote, The Case Remains For A Second Referendum

24/06/2017 09:18
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For some, 23 June will always be a day to celebrate, a day when we supposedly "took back control" and "got our country back".

For others like me, this date will mark a crude and painful reminder of a very damaging decision that will negatively affect the future of our country for generations to come.

The 23 June 2016 was an act of self-harm to our economy, the day we turned our back on our strongest allies, led to the rise of hate crime in our communities and a vote that has divided our nation. It will be hard to forget the lies, illusions and empty promises like the extra £350million for the NHS that were peddled by the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage.

In the last year I have been labelled a "remoaner", called a traitor and asked to shut up and get on with it. As a democrat, I accept the result of the referendum but I equally will not cave in to those who want to silence anyone who challenges the Government's 'Hard Brexit' approach.

I do not agree with the view that we should just remain silent during the negotiating process and accept any deal the Government comes up with. This issue is far too important to give the Government a blank cheque. This is like saying that after a general election we should just accept and rubber stamp all decisions until the next election, without holding the Government to account.

I believe, even more strongly than a year ago, that just as people were able to vote for departure from the EU, they should be given a vote on our destination in our future relationship with the EU.

If the process started with a referendum, why shouldn't it end with another one?

As the compromises and realities of Brexit unfold following the negotiations and a deal is struck, the British public should be allowed to decide, in a referendum, whether it is the right deal for them, their families, their jobs and our country. Whatever the result of that vote would be, that decision would carry a much heavier mandate then one by a small clique of politicians in Westminster.

If you were a Brexit voter for example, would you settle for a deal that still meant paying into the EU budget? Wouldn't you want a chance to have a say if you disagreed with the Government's deal?

That is why the Liberal Democrats will continue to push the Government for a public vote on the deal at the end of the negotiations, so people are given the choice to vote for that deal or to remain in the EU.

It is also worth pointing out that during the referendum campaign, the Leave side did not produce a unified position on what the UK would look like outside of the EU. For example, some Brexiters like Nigel Farage called for the UK to completely cut our ties with the EU, whilst others like Boris Johnson have said that we could remain in the Single Market.

Theresa May asked the country for a mandate towards a divisive and destructive exit from the European Union. The response she got was a resounding no. Since then, a recent Survation poll showed that 61.3% of people would prefer a 'Soft' Brexit.

If there is a positive lesson from the recent election it is to never take voters for granted. I am encouraged that since 8 June, there is growing momentum for the Government to work more closely with other parties.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party joint cabinet committee to be established to negotiate Brexit. This committee would be made up of MPs, selected by their parties and representative of the political make-up of parliament. The team would become the front line of negotiations with Brussels and ultimately have to agree to the final deal, which could then be put to the British people.

This is a moment for those in the centre to gather together, whatever our parties, and work in the national interest. I am determined that the Liberal Democrats will be a constructive opposition in this parliament and will play our part in bringing the country together, working with people of all parties and none, to fight for the best possible deal for you, your family, your neighbours and our country Britain's future relationship with Europe will be the most important issue in our country for years to come. As the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, I will continue to fight for an open, modern and inclusive Britain.

Tom Brake is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington

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