Jake Berry should champion a People’s Vote on Brexit
THERE’S something special about arriving back in the Rossendale Valley, I find, after being away from home, be it for a day, a week or even longer.
That moment when the Valley opens up before you as you drive over the brow of the M66 (or A56, I can never work out where one ends and the other starts), feels like a weight being lifted off the shoulders, a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.
If anyone deserves that feeling at the moment, it’s surely our local MP Jake Berry.
Returning to the Valley from the environs of Brexit-ravaged Parliament must be a blessed relief.
Yes, this column is here to write about and investigate local decision making, but every now and again a national issue has such strong local ramifications it can’t be ignored.
On one side, we have a Conservative government which is both tearing itself apart and sleep walking towards a potentially disastrous Brexit.
On the other side, we have Labour, seemingly unable to agree on anything about Brexit other than the fact it would like a general election because it thinks it can win (even if the opinion polls have Labour six points behind at the moment).
Rossendale voted 66 per cent in favour of leaving the EU.
But what both the 66pc and the 33pc here in Rossendale can agree on is this: None of us knew what leaving the EU would entail.
And we can probably also agree that, with just months to go, we still don’t know.
The best those who still champion leaving at all costs can offer is hope.
Hope that the EU will give us a deal.
Hope that we’ll get good trade deals.
Hope that it won’t be too bad at first.
For a pragmatist like Mr Berry, who described himself as a reluctant remainer but who more recently said he was wrong to be on the side of Remain in the referendum, it must be horrifying.
As the Northern Powerhouse minister, he admitted in an interview with Good Morning Britain that he ‘couldn’t guarantee’ the North would be better off after Brexit.
At what point did that red bus offering an extra £350m a week for the NHS also include a disclaimer “but you might actually be worse off.”
Mr Berry has also been quoted as saying that the North is braver about Brexit than Westminster, and has argued that the North voted for Brexit because it felt disconnected from London politics.
It seems implausible to argue that the Brexit pantomime in London has done anything to convince people voting for Brexit has changed that.
There’s been a lot of talk about a People’s Vote, or second referendum, and now is the time for Mr Berry to be an active champion of one.
He is, after all, the champion of the North in the Conservative government, and can anyone really say with a straight face that we had all the facts when we went to the polls in 2016?
A second referendum isn’t about replaying the first one - it would be about voting on terms of the deal being offered, or going for no-deal instead.
If there is no deal which Parliament can agree on, then the option to Remain should be offered, not because it’s right, but because we surely have the right to opt for an end to Brexit negotiations paralysing everything from education policy to NHS planning.
In other words, it’s about giving the public a say on the latest part of a process.
We’ve learnt a lot in two years - but it’s time for local MPs in the North to stand up for their constituents and give them an explicit say on the decision which will potentially shape every local community for decades to come.
We are lucky to live in the Rossendale Valley
Scribbler says Jake Berry and other northern MPs should argue for a referendum on the Brexit deal