Does the UK government even trust the British people?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

British Prime Minister Theresa May at the Anglo-French Summit at Sandhurst Military Academy in Camberley, Britain, 18 January 2018. [Andy Rain/ EPA]

Labour MP Geraint Davies writes that the Brexit debate is now shifting and that many promises have not materialised. British people who voted in good faith to leave the EU are now facing a number of impacts they simply did not expect.

Geraint Davies is the Labour Co-operative Member of Parliament for Swansea West and is an active member of the European Scrutiny Committee and honorary associate of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

Fundamental consumer and working rights afforded to the British people, like their environmental and consumer protections, at home and in trade deals, are no longer EU-guaranteed with their fate placed in the hands of a few ministers instead of parliament.

No wonder the British people, and even the ever ardent Brexiteers, are asking for the final say on the government’s deal.

The withdrawal bill has reached reading stage, and if sheer volume of amendments isn’t an indication of the incompetent naivety of this government, then a quick flick through the enormous gaps in the bill would be.

In fact, this bill has more than four hundred tabled amendments during committee stage. The last time this number of amendments were tabled was in 1992, for the EU bill on Maastricht; an irony that would not be lost on the British public.

But unfortunately, despite the considered amendments from members across the house, many of them taking a sober and sensible look at the challenges that face the UK beyond March 2019, most have been rejected.

Only one headline-grabbing government defeat will be added to this pitiful document, and that only ensures that the UK parliament gets a vote. That’s the parliament that was promised would ‘take back control’. It has in fact had to fight nail and tooth to uphold any semblance of democratic say, with notable casualties along the way. Us Brits do really love irony.

But where parliament has failed to knock some sense into this delusional government, the British people may have better luck. This is not a second referendum on abstract EU membership, but a specific referendum about the Final Deal.

As a Welsh MP, I was a prominent supporter of devolution leading up to its referendum, which was also staggered across two asks – the first was about the creation of the assembly, the second was about the powers that it would have. It seems that this approach is most definitely needed now.

The UK has shown an exceptional stamina for referendums in the last decade or two, where we have trusted the public to make big decisions. A referendum on the Brexit deal would be in that tradition. Unlike the claim of Brexit fundamentalists, this does not offset the pervious vote, which has already sent a strong message to the UK and the EU.

British people are tired of NHS and public service negligence and want a better and more pronounced understanding of what the EU does, and we still have work to do on both fronts.

But the current bill not only seeks to usurp the British people having that all-important say, but equally derail the actions taken after pervious referendum results through its assault on the principles of devolution, and not to mention the Good Friday agreement, which was ratified by the people of Northern Ireland and has proven to be the linchpin of negotiations.

This is not a best of three option, and what the people think about the Government’s final deal will not be susceptible to change. So while the EU’s heart remains open, so does ours.

Now we need to work on opening our ballot boxes so that people can take back control by having a vote on the Brexit Deal and the right to stay in the EU if they reject it.

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