“The right exists in every democracy for people to say they have changed their mind and they want to do something different,” he said.
A former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has become a champion for democracy and the rule of law since the 2016 referendum. Over 200 people attended the talk and Q&A session, organised by local cross-party, pro-European campaign group St Albans for Europe.
Mr Grieve said the Brexit promised in 2016 was ‘undeliverable’ and backed a second referendum as the only way to resolve the chaos caused by Brexit and Boris Johnson’s government. Blaming the narrow vote to leave the EU on unchecked growth of ‘popular opinion that does not have a rational foundation’, Mr Grieve said:
“The idea that the EU is some unique monster that is gobbling us up could not be further removed from reality. It is not a superpower, it is an international treaty organisation that we signed up to.
“Many people believed it was the patriotic thing to do to go and vote Leave in 2016. Of course the 2016 campaign was, bluntly, stinking on both sides. The Remain campaign was not good, and it didn’t look at the bigger picture, it just looked at the rather narrow economic issues.
“The public voted for an abstract idea, helped by the extraordinary mendacity of the Leave campaign painting the idea that, the moment we left, some sort of cornucopia of money would fall down upon us.”
As a consequence, he said, the UK plunged itself into crisis.
“In truth, nobody knew how to carry out Brexit. I keep receiving emails asking me; ‘Mr Grieve, where is your Dunkirk spirit’. Well, Dunkirk was a disaster.”
Acknowledging that the Conservatives ‘may face great difficulty’ in keeping their St Albans parliamentary seat in a general election, Mr Grieve was blunt about the way the Conservative membership voted for Boris Johnson to lead the country.
“My party did this country a huge disservice,” he said. “All my colleagues at Westminster, bar a few, knew that Boris Johnson is not a fit person to hold high office. He has taken a sledgehammer to every principle under which UK government is carried out ̶ proroguing parliament, turning No 10 into what I can only describe as a propaganda machine à la Trump, spewing out the most astonishing untruths on a daily basis and raising a People against Parliament narrative.
“If you smash up the china in the shop and think you are going to be able to go round with superglue putting it all back together afterwards, I think you are profoundly mistaken.”
Telling of the deaths of his grandfather and great uncles in the First World War and his father’s service in the Second, Mr Grieve said he believed working with countries that share the UK’s values to be the best way forward for those who believe in freedom and democracy.
“It is our absolute duty to try to maintain and pass down to other generations. Turning ourselves into Little Englanders is not the solution to anything at all.”
Mr Grieve said the Brexit chaos was highly likely to lead to either a general election or another referendum. Mr Grieve said a general election will not resolve Brexit and a second referendum appeared the only way forward for the country to solve the problem it faces.
Fiona McAndrew, Chair of St Albans for Europe, a branch of the European Movement UK, said:
“St Albans for Europe was delighted to host Dominic Grieve, one of the most important and knowledgeable politicians of our time. He is in high demand as a source of calm, measured and informed wisdom on Brexit and what is happening in Westminster. The evening was very well attended, attracting a range of people from different political persuasions and generations, and including groups of sixth formers from St Albans and the surrounding area.
“St Albans for Europe will join thousands of protesters on Saturday 19th October, marching in Central London in support of the campaign for a new referendum on any deal. The group will meet at St Albans City Station at 10am, and we encourage all in favour of a People’s Vote to come and join us, bring their banners and flags, children and families and friends and demand their voices are heard.”
A full transcript (transcribed to the best of our ability from an audio recording) of Dominic Grieve's speech can be found here.