An exclusive interview with Tory MEP Charles Tannock who thinks that rejecting Theresa May’s Brexit deal might precipitate a People’s Vote that could result in Britain remaining in the European Union.
Over the next few months, before and also after 29 March 2019, I will be interviewing politicians, writers, experts, business leaders and influential individuals out there to ask them questions about Brexit, a People’s Vote and the future of UK Politics...
Welcome to TALK TIME.
My first guest today is Charles Tannock MEP.
Charles Tannock with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Twitter/@CharlesTannock)
• Charles Tannock has been a Conservative MEP for London since 1999.
• Before becoming a MEP, he worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist in London and was also a Senior Lecturer at University College Hospital in London.
• He supported Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum.
• Charles Tannock also co-founded the Conservatives for a People’s Vote group.
• He is a dual British and Irish citizen, after securing an Irish passport following the Brexit result.
• He speaks French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
Charles Tannock, you voted Remain in 2016, but why have you chosen to publicly support the People’s Vote campaign, when others in your own party have switched to support Brexit?
I believe that the 2016 Referendum result, which produced a narrow victory (52:48) on a flawed franchise — which excluded my British-born mother in Paris, my EU citizen wife in London, but allowed a student from Mozambique a vote as a Commonwealth citizen, and won on a series of frank lies and false promises made to the electorate, is not a mandate for Brexit, let alone the hard one chosen by Mrs May after her Lancaster House speech.
The Leave campaign also broke the law on campaign spending and there are still questions as to the provenance and if offshore, the permissibility, of some of the money. The need now, in my view — following complaints that as the Brexiteer lies are exposed many Leave voters did not know what they were voting for, for a second chance in a People’s Vote to give informed consent is overwhelming on the final deal.
Furthermore, if there is no deal if the draft Withdrawal Agreement is defeated in the Commons, I also believe that ownership of such a Brexit no deal disaster to the economy should rest with the UK electorate as otherwise it will be forever remembered as the ‘Tory Brexit’ causing enormous damage to my party, which could well then be defeated at the next general election as Labour blame it all on Mrs May.
Is there any time left to organise such a referendum, considering we leave the EU in just 130 days?
If the meaningful vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement is in December 2018 and a decision to have a second referendum is taken quickly, it might just be possible with a short extension of Article 50 to early May 2019 — from March 29, so just ahead of the EU Parliament elections, to conduct this People’s Vote exercise in informed consent.
Some experts say 22 weeks are the minimum parliamentary and campaign time required. However, I agree it might be necessary to have a longer, say six-month Article 50 extension, which is problematic because of the EU Parliament elections on 23 May, but if necessary, the UK could field candidates if no other pragmatic legal solution could be found.
What options would you like to see on the ballot papers? Should Remain be an option?
I definitely think Remain must be on the ballot paper and recognise that some Brexiteers will wish if there is a People’s Vote to just subject two options to a vote, namely the Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement UK government deal versus a no deal Brexit.
My preference is to either have three options: Remain, Leave with a deal or Leave without a deal, or simply, which is now my preferred policy option, have two options: Remain versus Leave (as was the case before) and it is then up to the British government to determine how to implement Leave if that option won the People’s Vote.
Though I am confident Remain will now win, as confirmed by all recent polling and one of the reasons Brexiteers will resist tooth and nail a second referendum — and particularly one with the possibility of Remain and therefore mandating a no-Brexit Remain.
Is there anything opportunistic in some politicians supporting a People’s Vote now that the tide is turning?
Politicians will support a People’s Vote for different reasons. Some to do with pragmatic solutions to the current impasse, others to give ownership of Brexit back to the electorate in case it goes badly wrong with or without a deal and others like me who believe that after a cooling off period — like when you buy an insurance policy, you should be allowed a second chance to say YES or NO, having considered the consequence more carefully.
Do you think people are better informed now to vote again?
Certainly the UK electorate is better informed about the European Union and more aware of exactly what the EU is and does for them, and how leaving it after 45 years will cause huge problems and losses, particularly for the young over losing their Freedom of Movement.
What would you say are the key arguments to convince Leave voters to vote Remain this time around?
The economy will be damaged with the loss of jobs and less money for public services. The UK will be weakened and more isolated in the world. Our own Union may disintegrate with a United Ireland and an independent Scotland in the future. And British citizens will lose valuable rights such as Freedom of Movement as EU citizens.
What would you tell Jeremy Corbyn, whose position on Brexit is that Brexit cannot be stopped?
Corbyn is an old-fashioned Bennite 1970s anti-marketer who has never moved on and who is essentially anti-EU, as he considers it a capitalist free-market club which could limit his socialist agenda if he ever is UK Prime Minister.
I would tell him that the majority of the country in opinion polls want a People’s Vote. The recent polls show a clear Remain majority now as young people, whom he cannot ignore, express their views. The official policy set at Labour party conference is that if there is no deal in parliament that a second referendum — if no general election is possible — should be supported by Labour MPs with a Remain option on the ballot paper.
Let’s imagine a grim future. 29 March 2019, 11pm. Brexit happens. The hope of millions of Remain campaigners to stop Brexit is crushed. What should happen next? New party? New alliances?
Whether a new party is formed or is even required remains to be seen, but I am sure there will be a Rejoin movement, maybe on a non-partisan basis, which I would certainly join immediately after Brexit.
Let’s now imagine the opposite. A second referendum takes place and Remain wins. What’s next? Should the same old May vs Corbyn continue politics?
Very hard to see or predict, and would depend if the two leaders campaigned for Remain or Leave. If the former and Remain wins, then I could see both surviving, but it will be chaos for a while.
Would it be time for a new generation to come forward?
I agree that, certainly, politicians who were brave enough for the last three years to stick to stating the honest truth about the benefits of EU membership and deploring the fantasies of Brexiteers — who dream as British exceptionalists of reestablishing an Empire Mk2 Anglosphere, should be recognised for refusing to roll over after 23 June 2016 and be captured by the Brexit madness at considerable risks to their careers and even personal safety. I have had vile insults and thinly veiled threats on social media in recent months, as I am labelled a ‘Remaniac’!
If you haven’t already, please sign the People’s Vote petition to give people a final say on the Brexit deal.🔷
- Confusion, contradiction and ignorance driving UK towards no deal Brexit, argues senior Conservative MEP. (The Parliament Magazine)
- Why Tory Remainers hope Brexiteers will destroy Theresa May's Brexit deal. (Business Insider UK)
- Finish line in sight for Brexit talks as UK and EU hold crunch meetings. (The Parliament Magazine)
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)