On Tuesday 30th October I proposed a motion to Worcester City Council that our city should support a people’s vote on the final say on the negotiated Brexit deal.
The debate lasted about an hour and the result was 16 to 18 with the three Green’s supporting, all 17 Conservative councillors voting against with 13 Labour councillors voting for the motion, 1 against and 1 abstaining. I was pleased with the Labour support but was a little disappointed that not one Conservative was prepared to break ranks. Such a shame – I am pretty sure there must be a few within their ranks that can see the damage that could be coming to jobs and the economy.
It was fantastic to have the support of many in the audience on the night. Passions ran high and they did get a bit rowdy and I was worried they might be ordered out of the room.
Here’s my speech:
Britain’s relationship with the EU is crucial to many, many people in Worcester. From the international students and lecturers that enrich the city to the hundreds of millions of pounds invested in this city by international businesses like Mazak and Worcester Bosch.
Growing momentum for a People’s vote
Earlier in the summer, like Karen, I attended a march in London calling for a people’s vote – about 400,000 attended. On the 20th October there was another march, this time the numbers swelled to 700,000. The numbers are building. This campaign is of course supported by the Green Party and the Lib Dems but it has a growing support from prominent members of both the Conservative and Labour parties including: Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston, Phillip Lee, Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Justine Greening, Ros Altman and from the Labour side MP’s including Chuka Ummuna, David Lammy, Sadiq Khan, Mike Gapes and Chris Leslie.
Consequences of bad or no-deal BREXIT
I am concerned about a possible race to the bottom in terms of environmental protections and workers rights but I am also deeply worried about jobs and our economy.
There is a big difference between free trade and frictionless free trade. Take for example local business Worcester Bosch – it receives thousands of parts every day from our nearest partners in Europe. Many of the parts take up lots of space and so deliveries are needed daily. To respond to the market Bosch has a very flexible manufacturing system this flexes and changes variants and quantities to meet changing customer demand. Putting it bluntly, customers are often fickle if they want a product they want it now and if they can’t get it now they may well buy it from someone else. Frictionless supply of parts to Bosch is essential.
Bosch also benefits enormously from the free movement of people both in production, but also in R&D and all the other disciplins. There is a two way traffic of people working collaboratively on different sites for weeks, month or years bringing back expertise back into the company. Lastly it’s also important to mention the contribution Bosch makes to setting European standards. We don’t just follow rules we help to make the rules. Worcester Bosch have people who work with EU standards people to ensure that their processes are benefitted in the final standards. Bosch has to compete internally for investment money – decisions by head office are often very closely fought and on a knife edge. I fear that if we do get a bad or no-deal Brexit a very large additional barrier will be created for those making the decisions on where to invest their money.
Why we need a peoples vote – the June 2016 referendum was flawed.
The vote leave campaign overspent. The Electoral Commission investigated and found that they had broken electoral law and fined £61,000. In any other election that alone would annul the result but because the referendum was a non-binding vote apparently that does not apply.
The Leave campaign was misleading.
a) We’ve all seen the big fat lie plastered on the bus: ‘The money saved from leaving the EU will result in the NHS getting £350m a week’. The UK Statistics Authority has since said this was a “clear misuse of official statistics” – most notably because the figure did not take into account the money the UK gets back from the EU after paying into the budget.
b) The British people were mislead that it was going to be easy.
‘A free-trade deal with the EU will be ‘the easiest thing in human history’ – Liam Fox
c) The British people were whipped up into an immigration frenzy with complete falsehoods:
‘Turkey is going to join the EU and millions of people will flock to the UK’.
This was never a realistic or imminent possibility – In fact within months the EU suspended negotiations with Turkey.
d) False flags and confusing messages were rife. During the referendum campaign it was made clear by senior people in the campaign that ‘Brexit does not mean the UK will leave the single market ‘
Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP repeatedly assured voters that Britain would not leave the single market if they voted to leave the EU. He said: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market,”.
e) Another big problem for the referendum was that many people were not voting on the EU, but instead to give the government of the day a bloody nose – how many were voting on suffering years of austerity?
Closeness of the result
Considering the enormity of the decision the result was incredibly close. The current path we are treading is going to upset 48% of the people – that is no small minority.
So why do we need a people’s vote?
It would be a very brave thing for any MP to go against the will of the people. The people voted to leave the EU – I don’t think it’s likely that many MP’s would go against the June 2016 vote – yet in their hearts they know BREXIT will harm our country. If we accept that BREXIT will damage our economy and jobs, the only practical way forward is therefore to put it back to the British people. Let them decide if the final negotiated deal is good enough or if in deed they want to stay with the EU.
Unlikely that HMG will get her Chequers deal through parliament, Chequers has been rejected by Brussels, Northern Ireland border. MP’s from all political parties are struggling with the economic affects of what would come from a bad or no-deal Brexit. We need to throw those MP’s a life line to break the impasse by putting it back to the people to let them have their say on the final deal.
Please send a message to Westminster, please support this motion.
Rebuff counter arguments and closing statement
1) We’ve already had a peoples vote
June 2016 referendum was a decision to leave the EU but not a vote on the final destination.
– How many of the people who voted to leave wanted to stay within the European Economic Area like Norway?
– How many wanted a deal based on the European Free Trade Association like Switzerland?
– How many were happy to come out of the single market but to stay within the customs union – like Turkey?
– I’m guess some people were voting for a no-deal WTO Brexit.
It’s impossible to know how many wanted these options because those options were not on the ballot paper. Negotiating a good BREXIT deal is hard no one knows what will be in the final deal now – 2 years later.
When you buy a house or a business you make an offer but it’s always subject to surveys and due diligence of what you are getting into. It’s only right that once negotiations have been completed we look at all the information before complete the sale of the house.
2) The result will be just as divisive and inconclusive as last time.
I’d hope that people from all sides would reflect on went wrong last time. It can’t be beyond the whit of man to organise a well researched referendum based on just two options. The final negotiated deal or remain.
I hope that the people’s vote will be decisive but even if the result is close it will be on the basis of all the latest information.
3) The possibility that a people’s vote will undermine HMG’s negotiating position as the EU can then deliberately give us a bad deal knowing that it will strengthen the will of the people to then vote to stay in the EU.
The government has already blown that argument out of the water. The government can’t even decide it’s self on what it wants. The Conservative Party is split, the government is split and the cabinet has not been speaking with one voice.
Final Summing Up
The facts were not, and could not have been, known at the time of the 2016 vote. Many things have changed since then not just in the UK and the EU, but in terms of Trump’s presidency, growing Russian aggression; and the persistent and growing questions about the funding and conduct of the referendum.
To those who voted to Leave I’d also like you to support this motion.
If people still want to leave then they will be free to vote to leave. It can’t make sense to enact a policy as the ‘will of the people’ and yet say that it would be wrong to ask the people again. It might be regarded as unnecessary, or a waste of time, or irritating, or insulting, or, indeed, divisive. But it can’t, in democratic terms, be wrong to hold a democratic vote.
Wording of the motion:
Council notes that two years have passed since the EU Referendum.
The People’s Vote campaign has worked hard to develop cross-party support at the highest level, with signatories from parties from across the political spectrum supporting the campaign to allow the British people the final say on the final negotiated deal.
Accordingly, Worcester City Council resolves to:
1) support a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal with an option to remain in the EU.
2) mandate the Managing Director to write to the Worcester’s MP, to urge him, in the event of a no-deal Brexit to join the campaign for a People’s Vote to give the British people the final say on Brexit.