The independent London newspaper

Give people their say on the EU

12 July, 2019

‘March for Change, from Park Lane to Parliament Square on July 20’

• MANY of us will have watched the Conservative leadership contest in horrified amazement. How can this party have moved so far, so fast from their boasted traditions of pragmatism and common sense?

In the lead-up to the referendum, three years ago, almost all the talk – on the part of those who wanted Brexit at all – was of a soft Brexit, with the United Kingdom remaining in the single market and (to the extent this was ever mentioned) the customs union.

The Irish border (to the extent this too was ever mentioned) was not going to present any problems. We were so assured by the then-Northern Ireland secretary, who would surely know if anyone did.

Fast forward to June 2019 and all the leadership candidates – bar Sam Gyimah – were firmly advocating a hard Brexit. This, in the face of consistent poll findings over the last two years that the majority of the UK population don’t want Brexit at all.

And all the remaining candidates – bar Rory Stewart – stressed that they were ready to drive us over the cliff in a no-deal crash-out.

Now we learn that a comfortable majority of that small band, the Conservative Party membership, are prepared to acquiesce in significant damage to the UK economy and the break-up of the United Kingdom itself, just as long as we go ahead with Brexit.

Their single-minded obsession is to cut ourselves off, whatever the cost, from our biggest trading partner and best ally in a fractious world. What derangement has got into these people?

And they are the very people, the only people, who are going to choose our next prime minister. Just a few tens of thousands, in the grip of a monomania, get to decide the future of this country, with impacts all across the globe.

Their magical thinking seems, moreover, to be becoming normalised in the media. Few commentators bother to remark on the abrupt departure it signals from long-standing Conservative traditions.

The UK needs to wake up from this new-normal nightmare. The March for Change, from Park Lane to Parliament Square on July 20, should easily muster many times the numbers who are going to be voting for our next prime minister.

The message? If we want to start fixing the country’s real problems, we need to back out of the Brexit blind alley and start on a more positive agenda. July 20? Be there.



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