A call for a referendum on the terms
On 11 December 2017, the day that the House of Commons debated the petition calling for a referendum on the terms of Brexit, the Chair of London4Europe, Nick Hopkinson, wrote to the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP.
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BREXIT: A REFERENDUM ON THE TERMS
I first wish to thank you for your principled stand that the vote that Parliament has been promised at the end of the Brexit negotiation should be truly meaningful. London4Europe has encouraged all our members to write to their MPs to ask them to support your amendment.
I would urge you also to go further and support the amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would provide for a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain.
Only Parliament can undertake the detailed scrutiny of the Framework Agreement and Withdrawal Agreement that is needed to allow an informed decision to be made.
But no matter what the terms of Brexit, no matter how different they are from what was promised by Leave campaigners, MPs will have to reach their decision on how to vote in the shadow of the 2016 referendum. By then it will be a poor guide to the public’s wishes. But it will be hard for MPs to set it aside completely and unfair to ask them to do so.
What was begun with a referendum can only be finished with a referendum. Leave voters would not find it acceptable if MPs simply decided that the terms of Brexit were not good enough and that the UK should Remain. Nor would Remain voters see as valid a Parliamentary vote in favour of Brexit when the terms were so different from those promised in 2016, but MPs nonetheless expressed themselves as politically bound by the referendum result.
MPs will be able in December 2018 to set up a referendum for February 2019. But that would leave little time for organisation and campaigning. Some MPs will not dare to offend those Leave voters who see even a referendum as a betrayal so near to the next election.
If the referendum was put on the statute book now, to take place once the terms were known, so late 2018/ early 2019, the political landscape would be transformed. Government and opposition, supporters of Brexit and of Remain, would know that their task was to address the electorate (Brexit campaigners have gone quiet on the merits of their cause as they just rely on the 2016 result). Politicians would develop policies that met the needs of the electorate, not only on the EU, but also on the domestic policy issues that fuelled some of the Leave vote.
While the tabloids would no doubt criticise now MPs who voted for a referendum, that criticism would have been superseded by later events by the time of the next election.
The referendum on the terms would be the first honest informed vote on Brexit, not a re-run of 2016. The electorate would know what they were voting on, with concrete proposals for what Brexit means.
I therefore urge you in addition to your own campaign for a meaningful Parliamentary vote to support the amendments that call for a referendum on the terms.
London4Europe is the London section of the non-party European Movement UK