Last month, I attended a ‘Brexit’ meeting called by my MP, Rory Stewart (Conservative). It was attended by around 200 people and I found it very interesting.
Rory Stewart believes that there is a need to ‘acknowledge the result’ of the referendum by ‘finding a middle ground’. He is a supporter of the Prime-Minister’s Brexit ‘deal’ because he believes that it is the ‘best way to heal a polarised debate’. He thinks that Britain has always had a complicated relationship with Europe that can only be solved by ‘stepping back’ and having a conversation about economic, cultural and social issues that could only be held if Britain was outside the European Union.
Having started the meeting by outlining his own views, Rory Stewart asked the attendees what they thought by asking people to respond to questions with a show of hands. He found that 50% of those present favoured a People’s Vote and only 15% supported May's Brexit deal.
He then invited questions. Most of the questions consisted of statements that covered familiar ground, both for and against Britain’s membership of the European Union.
However, there were some interesting points.
First, while Rory Stewart argued that the Prime Minister’s deal should be supported, he conceded that it probably wouldn’t be approved by the Commons. However, he expected that if the government dropped the ‘back stop’ the ‘deal’ may become acceptable to most Members of Parliament and that the European Union may accept that. However, I suspect that many parliamentarians don’t like the deal that is on the table and so would like to imagine that other options could be pursued that in practice will not be available. If the ‘deal’ is voted down, I think the government will find it difficult to negotiate another ‘deal'.
Second, Rory Stewart was against a People’s vote because it would be divisive and if it resulted in a vote to remain, people who had voted leave would feel ‘cheated’. If this happened, he predicted that a leave campaign would start straight away, large numbers would vote for the BNP and UKIP and that “Quite moderate people in this room would be quite tempted to break windows; and there would be a new supercharged UKIP.”
I found this statement rather worrying. Was he saying that the government was intent on pursuing ‘Brexit’ because of a fear of political extremism and violence?
Third, Rory Stewart made several interesting statements that I quote without comment:
“In Parliament at the moment there is no majority for anything.”
“There are people who want to deregulate and open up the United Kingdom market to the United States and India”
“I’m sure most of the people in this room don’t believe the Bank of England.”
At the end of the meeting we were asked if any of us had changed our minds during the meeting. About ten people had, but we didn’t find out in what way. I hadn’t. I voted ‘remain’ in 2016, and with May's Brexit deal, I think that the only solution is a People's Vote.
Adrian Waite is a member of European Movement