Jake Berry should cham­pion a Peo­ple’s Vote on Brexit

Rossendale Free Press - - The Rossendale Scribbler -

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.

David Green­wood

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

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