Since I was selected as Labour’s candidate in Inverclyde in June, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people across the constituency. For most, when I discuss Brexit, it’s met with frustration and a real anger towards the Tories for the mess they’ve got us into.
Two thirds of people in Inverclyde voted to remain in the EU, and since 2016 many who voted to leave have told me that they have changed their minds as the reality of Brexit has become clear.
Many now see that the many advantages of being part of the EU – from safeguarding workers’ rights to securing the ability to trade freely – are more important than they looked before.
People have told me about the effect that increasing food prices have had on their family, the jobs that have been lost or have been cancelled because employers are delaying or cancelling investment decisions, the real uncertainty about what happens to their mortgages if no deal leads to increased interest rates and the fear of having to register to stay in a country where they have lived for years and started their family.
Next Tuesday, when the Prime Minister’s proposal is inevitably defeated, we in Labour should move quickly to a vote of no confidence. The Tories have wrecked our economy, ruined our communities with their austerity policies and this defeat will show they are so divided that they are paralysed and incapable of governing. Replacing them should be our priority.
But as we know from history, the Tory Party’s ability to unite – when the threat of being deposed is looming – is strong and the Fixed Term Parliament Act only strengthens their hand. That’s why we need to start preparing for a People’s Vote.
By the time the vote is taken next Tuesday, we will have only 73 days until Article 50 is triggered. Without a deal, we are facing a no deal situation that would leave our country in a perilous position, with the poorest and most vulnerable being the first to feel the effects.
That is why giving people a final say on Brexit has been backed by the GMB, Community and TSSA – these trade unions know the effect that a bad deal will have on working people.
Labour should be the party to get us out of this mess and short of a General Election, putting the question to the people is the only way of achieving that. If we can’t get a General Election then we must move to a People’s Vote quickly and argue for an extension to Article 50, if required, before the Tories can run down the clock to no deal.
I’ve seen the consequences of not one, but two, constitutional referendums. The fallout from both raise valid questions about how our country will react to another. But set against the likely consequences of no deal or a botched deal that cannot meet Labour’s six tests, this is the best option.
For people in Inverclyde, whether they voted remain or leave, a People’s Vote would allow them to have a final say and to judge the Prime Minister’s deal against the deal we have with the EU today.
In the past five years, those of us active in politics in Scotland have become weary of constitutional fights. And when it comes to referendums, we’d rather not go through it all again. But this is the biggest decision our country has made since the end of the Second World War. Our own squeamishness has to be put to one side and what is in the best interests of the people we seek to represent must come first.
Just as we continue to make the case against independence because of the devastating effect it would have on our communities, we must robustly make the case against crashing out of the EU. Time is running out but we have the chance to bring the country back from the brink. We should seize it.