The Conservative case for giving the people the Final Say on Brexit is growing stronger
Former ministers Justine Greening and Jo Johnson have reinforced the practical and political arguments for a new referendum
When The Independent launched its campaign to give the people the Final Say on the terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in July, it seemed like a long shot.
Then 700,000 people marched in London to demand another referendum, and 1 million signed our Final Say petition.
Over the next 12 days before the big Brexit vote in the House of Commons, the debate over returning the decision to the people will intensify. It is now clear that a Final Say referendum is a serious and credible alternative to simply approving Theresa May’s deal – something that MPs seem most unlikely to do.
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As we report today, Justine Greening, the former cabinet minister, has set out a plausible timetable for a new referendum on 30 May next year, after agreeing with the EU to extend the Article 50 timetable.
Ms Greening said it was not “heresy” to delay Brexit: “Given this decision is going to shape the coming decades, I think we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to get it right.”
The shape of a possible referendum has become clearer because of the growing consensus in parliament that leaving the EU without a deal is not a viable option – a consensus strengthened by this week’s three analyses of its economic consequences from the Treasury, the Bank of England and the independent National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
The latest opinion poll from Deltapoll suggests that public opinion is moving in this direction, with a no-deal Brexit now the least popular of the three options: deal, no deal and no Brexit.
That means the choice in a referendum should be between the prime minister’s deal – or any amended deal that might emerge from the chaos of the next few weeks – and remaining in the EU. There is no need for the complexity of a three-option “preferendum”. That is the answer to hard Brexiteers who ask, “What would the question be?”
Meanwhile, Jo Johnson, the former transport minister who resigned this month, set out the powerful argument in the Conservative Party’s self-interest for thinking again about Brexit. This week’s economic assessments did not only warn of the disastrous effect of a no-deal Brexit; they confirmed the economic consensus that Ms May’s Brexit would impose a smaller but significant brake on prosperity.
“This half-baked worst of all worlds Brexit could trigger an electoral defeat on the scale of 1997 or worse,” Mr Johnson said, warning that the “‘Tory Brexit’ label will be an albatross around our necks for years to come.”
We also report today the words of Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit spokesperson of the European parliament: “Let us make the best of it, in the knowledge that ... in the near future there will be a new generation in Britain who will decide to come back into the great European family.”
How right he is. And how important it is, then, to give the British electorate, which has already changed since 2016, the chance to avoid the pain and waste of leaving the EU and then joining again.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here