Sir John Major makes case for second Brexit vote in South Shields talk

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major says the case made for the Brexit vote was a fantasy and would like to see a vote on the final deal.

Friday, 28th September 2018, 10:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th September 2018, 6:49 am
David Miliband and . Sir John Major at Harton Academy

Sir John made his views known to a packed audience at the annual South Shields Lecture at the town’s Harton Academy - organised by the town’s former MP David Miliband.

His visit comes at a time when his Conservative Party faces the challenge of negotiating the end of Britain being a member of the European Union.

David Miliband and . Sir John Major at Harton Academy

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And it was the topic which dominated the evening - along with his thoughts on today’s political arena.

Brexit is something, however, he says he feels passionate about.

A remainer, he feels the argument put forward for the benefits of leaving the European Union behind was based on a “fantasy case” and he says he has real fears over the future of trade and security once we leave.

He said: “Negotiations with Europe are incredibly difficult. I know how difficult it is. My sympathies are with the negotiation remit the Prime Minster inherited and I sympathies with the problems she’s facing.

David Miliband and . Sir John Major

“Let no one forget how difficult it is for her to reconcile a country that was divided pretty much down the middle on whether we should stay in the European Union. Passions are very high. I can’t remember, in my lifetime any issue which divided the British public so savagely as this one has done.”

He added: “People feel so intensely strongly about it. So unless we want to leave behind a legacy of bitterness and damage on all sides, we have to be very careful how we conduct this particular debate.

“Many people say we can’t have another referendum because it would be undemocratic. I find that a rather curious that asking the people what they want is undemocratic.

“The position has changed. We had the referendum in 2016 and people voted based on what they were told at the time. In many ways and maybe, this is controversial but the case that was made for Brexit was a fantasy case.

“Almost nothing that was said will be the case.

“Those who voted for Brexit, they felt passionately about it for all sorts of reasons but what is undeniable is that the reasons and the promises that were made, placed in front of them when they voted, will not be the Brexit deal, whatever the Brexit deal is.”

He added: “So it doesn’t seem to be undemocratic when we have a deal, to place that deal and the details of what that deal is, what it might mean for individuals, businesses and for big corporations, in front of the nation.

“That will be based on fact not fantasy. They can re-endorse their positions to leave the European Union or decide differently. I cannot see an intellectual argument against that.”

During the night, he also said he felt routine attacks on the Prime Minister and threat of leadership battles was neither in the “spirit of politics” or in the interests of the negotiating position of the United Kingdom.

The South Shields Lecture, created by Mr Miliband is now in its 10th year.

The evening ended with world renowned South Shields artist Bob Olley presenting Sir John with a cartoon drawing of himself, as is traditional of all guests to the lecture.