Brexit Q&A with David Drew MP
A capacity audience joined David Drew MP for a Brexit discussion evening following a whirlwind week in Westminster.
David invited constituents to join him for the Brexit Question and Answer event at the Imperial Hotel on Thursday.
More than 50 people gathered to hear David’s update on the week in Westminster and some of the background to Brexit, as well as to discuss how we move forward.
David opened the meeting with a briefing on the legal and political complications around Brexit, bringing with him a copy of the 500-page proposed Withdrawal Agreement – the ‘deal’ that the government has negotiated with the EU – and bundles of the many, many postcards and letters he has received from campaigners on all sides of the Brexit debate.
He also outlined what he considered to be some of the reasons behind the 2016 result, as well as explaining his own general opposition to referendums.
“Referendums don’t really fit our model of parliamentary democracy. Giving people a simple yes/no question when they are really fed up is a big mistake,” he said.
“Successive governments have really let this country down. It’s badly fragmented and there is huge disparity. Many regions are not represented and are not getting investment,” he said.
David explained how the UK, along with other EU member states, had made an important mistake.
“It was never properly acknowledged that, while free movement of people for work can be very helpful, it can also be destabilising.”
But, he went on, a badly managed Brexit would also have a destabilising effect on the UK.
"There has been a lack of understanding about tensions between the four countries of the UK, and within those countries as well. The cack-handed and chaotic way this government is handling Brexit can only make those tensions worse,” he said.
The 2016 referendum had shone a spotlight on the EU, which had not previously been at the forefront of voters’ concerns.
“The EU was only seventh on the priority list of voters’ key concerns. The NHS came higher, as did jobs, schools, transport, police and public services. Those are the issues that really matter to people in their daily lives.”
David took a range of questions from the audience, which included concerns about the detrimental effect of imposing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the possibility of a second referendum.
“The difficulty is that the factors which led to a Leave vote have not been addressed,” he said. “I worry that if we hold another referendum, we will find ourselves even more divided than we were in 2016.”
“In any case, a referendum must be legislated, which means it has to be passed by majority vote in the Commons. Despite what many people seem to believe, Labour cannot do this as we are not in government.”
Whatever happens next, the most important challenge is to build bridges.
“I've always tried to bring people together. Talk to a Leaver if you're a Remainer, and if you're a Leaver find out about why people care about the EU. We need to talk across the ideological gaps and across the generations.”
The discussion was held as one of David’s Pub Politics events, which enable constituents to discuss issues with him in a relaxed setting.
The next Pub Politics event is:
Monday 31 January
The Malt House, Berkeley, 6.30pm