I was disappointed, but not surprised the idea of a People’s Vote on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations failed to garner enough support from other Ards and North Down Councillors with the DUP and UUP uniting to deny that we have a right to determine our own future. Yet again Ards and North Down Councillors are failing to properly address Brexit.
Last week I was delighted to see the growing momentum behind a People’s Vote get a voice in Northern Ireland through support in both Belfast and Newry, Mourne and Down. Yet when faced with the same opportunity, Ards and North Down Councillors have instead opted for a head in the sand approach.
It is this approach that previously saw the refusal of the same Councillors and parties to engage in forming a Brexit Committee aiming to address not only growing concerns, but to ensure our local area is protected once Brexit is a reality.
Some of our Councillors seem to forget that a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in Europe. They repeat again and again that they are respecting the decision of the rest of the UK. But to be honest, I don’t particularly care how English people voted – my focus is solely on the future of Northern Ireland.
Across the UK the demand for a People’s Vote on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is growing, and with March 2019 now only five months away I want to be able to say I did everything possible to protect Ards and North Down and Northern Ireland.
Brexit will affect everyone and we should be looking at the detail and allowing everyone the right to have their say. Those who continue to block this locally not only risk the stability of our future, but worryingly actually don’t seem to comprehend the difficulties and challenges Brexit naturally brings for Northern Ireland.”
There is the growing realisation amongst the people we represent that our Government is in disarray around the Brexit issue: that their negotiations have become fixated with Party interest and survival rather than for the positive future of our country. As a result, the people of Northern Ireland and across the UK have lost trust in the Government’s ability to reach a positive Brexit deal.
With less than two weeks before the October 19th meeting of the European Council at which decisions must be made and deals done, it is obvious that UK negotiators are starting to panic and the potential for a bad deal – or even the disaster of a No Deal, Crash Out Brexit – is becoming very real.
In their recently published ‘technical notices’ the Government has admitted that they have icontingency plans for stockpiling food and drugs in the growing likelihood of a Crash Out Brexit.
That should be worrying enough. But for those of us who live in Northern Ireland, the concern is even greater with the possible return to a hard border and all the implications that means for us.
And regardless of how anybody voted in June 2016, nobody did so in the hopes of a Crash Out Brexit resulting in economic disaster and the challenge to the Good Friday Agreement.
On the other hand, of course, it is possible that the Government will actually pull the rabbit out of the hat and be able to boast a brilliant deal with guarantees of a bright future.
One that secures free trade north-south and east-west: one that guarantees the integrity of the Good Friday agreement: one that ensures economic stability and growth and one that protects jobs and businesses.
But either way, we come back to the issue of who makes the final decision on what is the right deal for us, our children and our grandchildren.
For those who have a concern that any negotiated deal at this stage will in effect be a fudge and an A4 sheet of aspirational headlines, a People’s Vote to express their disapproval of any attempted Blindfolded Brexit is their right.
And for those who believe the negotiations will result in a positive Brexit that guarantees our future, they too deserve the opportunity to put their seal of approval on the deal and end the EU in/out arguments for once and for all. For them too, a People’s Vote is the right choice.
Why I signed the People’s Vote Petition
When I signed the Petition calling for a People Vote, it wasn’t because I wanted a re-run of the 2016 Referendum. To be honest, along with most of my colleagues in business I spent the first 15 months of the negotiations waiting for the breakthrough that would guarantee us a good Brexit.
No, I signed the Petition because I – along hundreds of thousands of our fellow UK citizens – have realised that given the circumstances in which the Government finds itself, we do not trust them to negotiate a good deal on our behalf.
We cannot trust the integrity of their decision making, and therefore, we want to be given the opportunity to make the final decision on this deal of all deals for ourselves.
The outcome of these protracted negotiations will affect the people of Northern Ireland for generations to come, and that is simply too important to be left in the hands of politicians whose focus is on their political survival rather than our children’s future.
Denying the people of Northern Ireland the right to have their say will potentially leave us in a very dangerous place both politically and economically.