Thie letter was sent to my MP Karen Bradley on 1st January 2018. I have received no reply.
Firstly thank you for the seasonal greetings in your recent newsletter. We wish you a Happy New Year.
I apologise for the length of this email but do hope you will give it your full attention.
Sadly I have never been more despondent about the state of our country and its future.
Like me, you must be deeply concerned at the truly shocking hatred and division that now infects our national debate and the dangerous rise of extreme nationalism unleashed by the Brexit debate – the repeated lessons of history seem to be so easily forgotten.
As someone who campaigned strongly to remain in the EU(1) you clearly understand the benefits our membership has delivered for the UK and therefore that Britain’s proposed exit from the EU is the most important issue facing Parliament in our lifetime.
I do not accept the results of the Brexit referendum for reasons that have been widely debated: the referendum was advisory only, inexplicably no super-majority was required, the campaign was rife with lies and misinformation on all sides, the right wing press deliberately misled the public on immigration to stir up xenophobic sentiment. I respect your right to accept the referendum result for what it was – a very narrow win for ‘leave’. But the electorate did not vote to leave the single market or the customs union, that was not on the ballot paper.
The official Vote Leave campaign stated:
"There is a free trade zone stretching all the way from Iceland to the Russian border. We will still be part of it after we Vote Leave."
Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP and one of the faces of Vote Leave, declared: "Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market."
Boris Johnson, now foreign secretary, declared in the aftermath of the referendum vote that Britain would retain access to the single market.(2)
The decision to leave the single market and customs union was not taken by the electorate but by the government. How could you support that with your vote when you must know the enormous risks this entails and the damage it will cause to our economy?(3) Please don’t tell me that this was the ‘will of the people’ because it clearly wasn’t the will of the 63% of the electorate who did not vote to leave, and is not the will of many leave voters who now realise they were seriously misled (see above).
Even if it had been the ‘will of the people’, it isn’t now. As we learn more about the reality of Brexit and the lies we were told (£350 million a week, etc) the electorate are changing their minds. And one of the great things about democracy is that it allows for just that – people can change their minds as circumstances change. Your government won (just) a general election on the promise of removing free school meals, dementia tax, triple lock on pensions, grammar schools, fox hunting, winter fuel allowance, immigration targets, and so on, all of which you have now changed your minds on.
“We have listened very carefully to the views of the sector on the proposal to remove free school meals and we have decided it is right to retain the existing provision.” (Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister in the House of Commons).
So if it’s acceptable for you to break clear manifesto commitments to the electorate surely the electorate can change their minds on something far more important and long lasting as leaving the EU? Why are you so reluctant to allow a meaningful votes in parliament (remember parliamentary sovereignty)? Democracy demands that once the proposed future position of the UK outside of the EU is clear, parliament and the electorate must be allowed to decide whether to accept the deal, seek a better deal, or to remain in the EU if that is what is best for the country.
I have spent most of my career in industry and consulting, before joining Alliance Manchester Business School and, as you know from your days in Deloittes and KPMG, no sensible organisation attempts a major change programme without assessing the impact of alternative approaches before deciding on the one with least risk and highest rate of return, including the option not to proceed if that is the best choice. And yet it appears that your government is doing just that on one of the most complex, high risk, long lasting changes ever proposed for this country. Why?
According to the FT recently the UK will need to renegotiate 759 existing international trade treaties just to maintain the status quo, were the UK to leave the European Economic Area. So, at the very least, the Heads of Terms of these renegotiated treaties must be settled before a “meaningful vote” can be made by Parliament. That equates to two treaties a day until the proposed Brexit date, (excluding holidays). How far has your government got with this urgent process? Have you even started?
Sadly your parliamentary voting record shows you are now putting your party before your country. The European Union has been hugely beneficial for the UK. Our economy was a basket case when we joined and has flourished ever since, with better growth in GDP since 1973 than the US, Germany and France.(4) Yet you consistently vote to take us out of the biggest single market the world has ever seen. Why?
Surely it’s time to rise above the reactionary and stupid nostalgia for a past that never was?
Brexit offers no tangible benefits, only a massive, measureless waste of time, effort, resources and taxpayers’ money. It will cost this country billions simply to secure far less advantageous terms with the EU than we already enjoy. Economists, senior civil servants, businessmen and experts are virtually unanimous in the horrendous damage Brexit is already inflicting on our economy, our future prospects and on Britain’s influence on the world stage.
You cannot be proud that under your government, completely overwhelmed by Brexit, desperate social issues are not being addressed, where homelessness and inequality are rising, where food banks are now once more common, and the NHS is sinking under the strain?
How can you continue supporting Brexit when you know that all our allies and closest friends want Britain to remain in the heart of the EU, where we can work as equals and exert real influence?
You must be acutely aware that America has turned inwards, backward-looking, and trigger-happy; a rampant China is set on dominating world trade and the planet's resources; an aggressive, interfering Russia is challenging us at every opportunity; and climate change will increasingly threaten world peace and structures. Faced with these truly global challenges what would an intelligent strategy be for the UK? Remain a full member of an EU with size, strength and leverage to face up to such threats and competition or go it alone and hope not to be squashed or sidelined? Why is this scenario apparently beyond the comprehension of your government?
At times of greatest need our country has historically been able to count on political leaders to take brave, far-sighted decisions even if they did not necessarily represent the popular view of the electorate, or the tabloid press at the time. There is an overwhelming majority amongst younger voters in favour of staying in the EU, voters who were disenfranchised in the referendum, and they will not forgive this government or your party for the deliberate destruction of their hopes, their opportunities and their future. I would ask you, therefore, to face reality, to be honest and tell Parliament and the people that Brexit is not and never will be in the best interests of the nation; to put future generations first; to put parliament before the government; and to put your country before your party. I believe you have the leadership qualities to oppose irrational extreme Brexiteers, support the Remain campaign, and can be relied upon to do the right thing for this country and keep us in the EU.