Why I am joining the People’s Vote march on Saturday

22 March 2019 5:40 PM

Lord Heseltine

On Saturday I will join hundreds of thousands of British people demanding a People’s Vote on Brexit. The Put it to the People march will give voice to the growing concern in the nation that Brexit is going horribly wrong.

Of course I argued from the beginning that we were better off in the EU than out of it. Better off resolving our differences from within the European family than as an isolated onlooker chipping in from the side-lines.

I believe passionately that at a time when the far-right is on the rise in Hungary and Poland and populists growing in influence in Italy, France, Germany and Holland, Britain is needed to provide leadership in Europe.

For the majority of my career in politics that is a role we have played with skill, intelligence and integrity – it breaks my heart to see us threatening to walk away from it now.

My view of the European project has been consistent.

But what has changed, beyond all recognition, is the prospectus of the Leave campaign, the people who spoke in glowing terms about £350m boosts to the NHS, trade deals and regained sovereignty. And after six years as Home Secretary, the Prime Minister saw non-European immigration rise to record levels. So much for taking back control.

The last two years has seen a great unravelling, of the promises made during the Referendum, of the Prime Minister’s deal and of trust in politics. Now, with a deal barely anyone supports and certainly no-one loves and with time running out to free our Parliament from deadlock the only way I can see to resolve this national crisis is to take this decision back to the British public.

This time around we will all be better informed about what Brexit really means and involves, we have after all spent the last two, painful years as a nation talking about little else. We will have a deal, negotiated with the EU, to consider and a clear sense of the benefits of staying in the EU to set it against.

Sensible amendments have been suggested to link support for the Prime Minister’s deal to a confirmatory referendum, offering the potential even at this latest of stages, for the Prime Minster to show some political flexibility. But in this time of stubbornness, they have been discounted as not pure enough, another vote would be undemocratic, the argument runs.

But of course, we will have another vote on the deal, in Parliament next week, if the Speaker allows and another defeat would leave this process stuck exactly where it has been all year, gridlocked.

There is another way. A final defeat for the Prime Minister’s deal should be the signal for MPs from across the political divide to work together to find first the political will and then the time and space to hold a People’s Vote.

Europe stands ready to help but we need to work together to find a solution to this crisis of our democracy.

I believe we can still do it. I believe in Britain and our future in Europe and I believe we still have leaders who can lead us through this crisis.

It is time for them to step up and it is time for the rest of us to march.

Together, let’s make a difference. Park Lane to Parliament. Saturday. High noon.