Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Why we need a People’s Vote

For Brexit to be democratic, we must give the public a say on the final deal, writes Will Dry

Having voted Leave, I was proud as dawn broke on Brexit Britain on the 24th June. Proud that my fellow citizens would bravely stand against the experts – the IMF, the Treasury, the Bank of England, and the Prime Minister, instead favouring their own intuitions. I was comforted that I was standing with 17.4 million others who also saw Brexit – more trade, a better NHS, control of our laws, borders, and money – as an attractive prospect. A year and a half later, I have left university to fight against a referendum result I voted for, having co-founded a group, Our Future, Our Choice! (OFOC!), which is rising up against the destruction of opportunities that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will result in. Our single objective in the next few months is for members of parliament to give the public a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

After our involvement in the recent launch of the People’s Vote campaign we were labelled ‘young anti-democrats’. This was a bit bemusing at first, but I can see why there is such a strong objection against our campaign. The 2016 referendum was the largest democratic exercise in our country’s history. We were told that our vote would decide the issue for a generation. So, I can see why some may see the push for a People’s Vote as disrespectful to the democratic decision we made back in June 2016.

Yet, this argument does not account for the broken promises made by the Leave campaign. We did not choose to leave because 17.4 million people wished to leave the institution of the European Union, but rather because of the outcomes the Leave campaign promised – more money for the NHS, control over our borders, and more opportunities for trade – to name a few.

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Crucially, the Brexit negotiations have illuminated a deal radically different to the one which Leavers like myself thought possible in 2016. There will not be more trade, but less, as Theresa May admits we will have ‘less access’ to European markets (and our major trading partners). Our NHS is not going to be better but worse. A record number of EU nurses and doctors have left the country since the vote, while the NHS stumbles from crisis to crisis no sign of that £350m a week. Far from ‘taking back control’, we look set to be a rule taker for a minimum of two years, and most likely long after that. We will not be richer but poorer; Brexit already costs our economy hundreds of millions each week, amounting to billions of tax revenue every year, and the deal May is looking to strike will cost £40bn, a princely sum we will be paying for the next forty years.

Yes, the British people voted to Leave – myself included. But it would be thoroughly undemocratic, and a vicious abuse of the mandate, for the prime minister to hammer through a deal which contravenes a whole host of Brexit expectations and desires. Bar Nigel Farage, nobody voted for Brexit for Brexit’s sake. We must question whether May’s deal is a fair implementation of the mandate, and the most democratic questioners are the people who votes for Brexit in the first place – the British people.


Will Dry is co-founder of Our Future, Our Choice! He tweets @Will_DryOFOC


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Will Dry

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