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A People’s Vote

September 20, 2019


I believe passionately that the UK should remain part of the EU. This is something I have fought for continuously since 23 June 2016. 75% of my constituents voted to remain a member of the EU and I will continue to do all within my power to stop Brexit. As such, I have been placing pressure on the Government to give the British public a say on the final Brexit deal. The people must be given a say over whether the UK leaves the EU. This has also involved placing pressure on my own party to lead these calls for a second referendum. I believe Parliament is at an impasse and the only way to break the gridlock is to give the British public a say on the final Brexit deal. I will continue to do all within my power to stop Brexit and, in doing so, protect us from the disastrous consequences of leaving the EU. I have attended many rallies and marches, with some estimates reaching 1 million people in attendance. The following excerpt is from my contribution to the European (Withdrawal) Act Debate in December:


The Brexiteer promise to take back control in 2016 was nothing more than a deluded fantasy. It was a lie that divided friends and families, pandered to racism and xenophobia and caused an extra 638 hate crimes per month. What does it say about the United Kingdom when the UN sends rapporteurs to warn us of increased racism in our country? What does it say about Britain when our politicians play on the fear of migrants, races and religions to win votes? What did it say when Nigel Farage stood in front of a Nazi-inspired poster of refugees with the caption, “Breaking point”? The founder of the Labour party, Keir Hardie, spoke of socialism’s “promise of freedom”, its “larger hope for humanity” and of “binding the races of the earth into one all-embracing brotherhood”. I honestly ask my good friends in the party who are still wavering: can you really vote for this politics of division and hate? Can you really vote to slash workers’ rights ​and protections? Can you vote to give tax avoiders a sanctuary? Can you vote to hand over more power to the clumsy hand of the market?


What I am about to say is not fashionable, but our country’s story of renewal through Europe is one of immigration. We grew as a nation because of free movement. European migrants are not “citizens of nowhere” or “queue jumpers” as the Prime Minister would have us believe. Young, energetic, diverse and willing to pay taxes, EU citizens have given so much. They have done the jobs that our own would not do. Around 3.8 million now live in Britain. Over their lifetimes, they will pay in £78,000 more than they take out.


The contribution of European migrants has not been just financial. Our culture, our art, our music and our food has been permanently improved. The Prime Minister’s deal has emerged as a Frankenstein’s monster—an ugly beast that no one voted for or wanted. To appease hardliners, the transition period can be extended to 2022 at most. That has eradicated our leverage—it is simply not enough time to negotiate a free trade deal. We are now on course for another cliff edge. The deal does not take back control; it gives it away. It surrenders our voting rights on the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament for nothing in return. I cannot vote for any form of Brexit because every form of Brexit is worse for my constituents.


Brexit is a historic mistake. It forgets the lessons of Britain’s past. It forgets the value of immigrants. It forgets that we cannot build a new empire by force. It forgets that in the modern world our nation will flourish not through isolation, but through connection, co-operation and a new vision for the common good. Brexit forgets why this continent came together after two bloody wars.This country is crying out for a second chance. Seven hundred thousand people marched on the streets of London. Millions more campaigned online and wrote to their MPs. They are asking for one thing: an opportunity to right the wrong of 2016 and another shot at the imperfect but audacious European dream. As John of Gaunt says in Shakespeare’s “Richard II”:

“That England, that was wont to conquer others hath made a shameful conquest of itself”


I have written many articles calling for Labour to back a second referendum over recent months. One was entitled Why Labour must lead calls for a people’s vote on Brexit. This stressed that the Labour Party has a duty to oppose the government’s plans to end the UK’s membership of the European Union. I called on the party to present the public with a vote on the final Brexit deal, which must include an option to remain.  Another was entitled Dire warnings of civil unrest shouldn’t stop us challenging Brexit. I argued that the threat of anger is vastly outweighed by the dire consequences of a no-deal Brexit; we must stand up to the radical right rather than pander to them


I also attended the APPG for Reuniting Britain post-Brexit. This brought together members across parties to discuss the importance of bringing the country together and healing the divides that came to the surface during the Brexit referendum. We discussed the impact of austerity, the decline of the manufacturing sector and the increasing educational divide. Looking forward, we must build an anti-austerity platform on which to fight disenfranchisement, neutralize the regional divide and mobilise young people. This is also something I spoke about for Labour List, in an article entitled “Labour Together: Belonging.” 


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David Lammy

From Tottenham. For Tottenham.