Former British Prime Minister (1990-97) John Major has called for a free vote in parliament on whether to hold a second EU referendum and scathingly criticised the UK government’s “unrealistic” Brexit strategy.
He attacked an unrealistic campaign built on untruths headed for an outcome that would make Britain, its people, and the very poorest of its people even poorer.
It would also lead to the loss of at least 125,000 jobs as Japanese companies, in Britain for their access to the EU market, pull out.
Sir John also said there was an urgent need to come up with a solution to the Border problem in Ireland and that was the UK’s responsibility, not the EU’s.
He said he was not trying to revive David Cameron and George Osborne’s ham-fisted Project Fear Remain campaign.
“This is Project Know Your History,” he said.
Sir John, one of the original architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, said that it is the British parliament that has a duty to consider the “well-being of the people” while also respecting the outcome of the first referendum and the decision of voters.
“This must be a decisive vote, in which parliament can accept or reject the final outcome; or send the negotiators back to seek improvements; or order a referendum.
“That is what parliamentary sovereignty means.
“No-one can truly know what ‘the will of the people’ may then be. So, let parliament decide OR put the issue back to the people.
His speech in London was timed so as not to cause difficulties for Prime Minister Theresa May in the Commons for Question Time a short time before.
“Every one of the Brexit promises is, to quote Henry Fielding, ‘a very wholesome and comfortable doctrine to which (there is) but one objection: namely, that it is not true’.
“I know of no precedent for any government enacting a policy that will make both our country and our people poorer. Once that is apparent, the government must change course.”
“We need a policy to protect the Good Friday Agreement and we need one urgently and it is our responsibility to find one, not the European Union.”
“Over many years, the Conservative party has understood the concerns of business. Not over Brexit, it seems.
“This is not only grand folly. It’s also bad politics. Our self-imposed ‘red lines’ have boxed the government into a corner.
“They are so tilted to ultra Brexit opinion, even the Cabinet cannot agree them – and a majority in both houses of parliament oppose them. If maintained in full, it will be impossible to reach a favourable trade outcome.”
Warning that 125,000 jobs with Japanese companies could be lost in the UK, he said “none of it has yet been properly explained to the British people”.
“No one voted for higher prices and poorer public services, but that is what they may get.
“The emerging evidence suggests Brexit will hurt most those who have least.
This isn’t ‘Project Fear’ revisited, it is ‘Project Know Your History.’
“In recent weeks, the idea has gained ground that Brexit won’t be too bad; that we will all get through it; that we’re doing better than expected – and all will be well.
“Of course we will get through it: life as we know it won’t come to an end. We are too resourceful and talented a nation for that. But our nation is owed a frank assessment of what leaving Europe may mean – for now and the future.”
“We are all urged to be ‘patriotic’ and get behind Brexit. But it is precisely because I am patriotic that I oppose it.
“There must be respect for differing views that are honestly held. In this debate there are no ‘remoaners’, no ‘mutineers’, no ‘enemies of the people’ – just voices setting out what they believe is right for our country.”
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