On 29 November 2017, a number of St Albans for Europe members attended The Guardian's 'Can Brexit be stopped?' discussion at the Emmanuel Centre, close to the heart of Westminster. Speaking for Remain were Gina Miller and Alastair Campbell, whilst former Labour MP Gisela Stuart and Labour Brexiter John Mann MP spoke for the Leave side of the debate.
Getting straight to the point, Campell's view was, yes, Brexit can be stopped, moreover it is our democratic right and duty to fight this 'disaster.' In addition to the financial damage of leaving, our defences will be 'shredded'; we are already seeing warships being sold off. We should be 'tough on Brexit, tough on the causes of Brexit' and mustn't stop being angry. He was confident that 2018 will see a proper campaign to stop Brexit, and that Corbyn will want nothing to do with a Brexit backed by Putin and the hard right.
Miller remained appalled at the lies told, and spinelessness of our MPs, and was concerned that Brexit will be a back door to an illiberal and 'un-British' agenda. She made the case for looking forward, rather than back - because the clock is ticking. A Referendum Act would be needed for a second vote, and there is not enough time: by Spring 2018, CEOs will be executing their Brexit contingency plans. In her view, if anything will undo Brexit, it will be Ireland, and Campbell agreed the border is an insoluble conundrum. We should keep demanding a meaningful vote with an option to remain. Miller concluded that the EU is about peace and asked how we can think of 'being so small in a big world.'
Mann's constituency voted (knowledgeably in his view) 70% for leave, with the highest leave vote in the poorest wards. He pointed out that under EU rules, we can't do anything about zero hours contracts, or companies which favour EU migrants over British workers, nor can we nationalise our railways - a view which some might dispute. He was convinced that in the event of a second referendum the Leave vote would be even bigger. However, he did appear to think there will be 'a deal,' possibly an EEA or Swiss style arrangement. (It wasn't clear how this was to be squared with his constituents' views on curbing immigration).
Like Mann, Stuart believed people haven't changed their minds. Furthermore, were there a second vote, people would also have to be convinced to join Schengen and the Euro. (She didn't explain her reasoning for this view). Expressing the concern that the EU hasn't addressed global flows of people, she was certain we will have to leave the single market.
The question 'Can Brexit be stopped?' may not have been answered, but it was a fascinating evening providing insight into both sides of a debate which will continue to divide opinion over the coming month
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