MPs, celebrities and business leaders have come together to launch a campaign for a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the EU.
The People’s Vote campaign endeavours to unify different anti-Brexit groups in order to demand voters are given the final say rather than parliament on the deal secured by Theresa May.
MPs including the Conservative’s Anna Soubry, Labour’s Chuka Umunna, Liberal Democrat’s Layla Moran and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas gathered at the launch of the campaign in Camden in north London on Sunday. More than 1,200 people attended.
Supporters were joined by the actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who has lent his support to the campaign, saying that if people voted to reject the exit deal Britain would “simply stay” in the EU.
Sir Patrick opened the event by telling the audience he supported the People’s Vote because “our country’s future is at stake and we will not stand idly by”.
The X-Men actor echoed those views in a comment piece for The Independent.
“The cold reality is that Brexit is hurting our economy,” he wrote. “Our public services and the life chances of future generations. And the government has already admitted that in all of the possible outcomes of the current negotiations, the country will be worse off.
“Brexit is such a huge and momentous time in our history, one that will affect future generations for many years to come and it should not be left simply to politicians. So, now that we are learning the real cost of Brexit, I want to urge that we think again and insist that the decision about whether to accept the Brexit deal is a matter for the people. To my mind, the only way to resolve the huge challenge we now face as a country is through a people’s vote.”
Economist Mariana Mazzucato, Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed and comedian Andy Parsons also attended the launch event in the capital.
Anna Soubry told the crowd: “We MPs made a decision that we would have a referendum. Since then, the people have been outside of the process.
“The way I see it is this: as Brexit unfolds and people see the reality of it, for the first time ever I think in any country’s history we have actually had a government that has said to its people that we are about to embark on a course that – which ever way you cut it, whatever deals comes out – you and your grandchildren will be less prosperous than you are now. This is really serious stuff.
“I think the best and right thing to do is to put it back to the people and have a say you can have a vote on this deal.”
The campaign, which is led by the pro-EU campaign group Open Britain and the European Movement, brings together nine grassroots campaigning organisations in a united push for a vote.
Both the Conservative and Labour parties have ruled out a second referendum. Back in June 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent.
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The UK will formally cease to be an EU member in March 2019 and the two sides are hoping to come to a deal by October in time for it to be ratified by UK and European parliaments.
The executive director of Open Britain, James McGrory, said: “When we have been going around to local communities and talking to people about Brexit, there’s a real feeling that people are being shut out of a debate in London and Westminster.
“These people know that Brexit is a really big deal, they know it isn’t a done deal and they want to have a final say on it. They want a people’s vote.”
On Sunday Sir Patrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the “terms and conditions” of Brexit were “quite unlike” how they were presented in the build-up to the 2016 referendum.
He said the demands for a fresh vote were “part of democratic process” and the People’s Vote campaign would argue the public rather than MPs should be given the final say on Brexit.
The actor also said he was spurred by “history and emotion” to want to stay in the EU. “I’m a war baby and growing up a lot of the world was not good. So the day we joined was one of the most exciting days of my adulthood,” he said.
Sir Patrick said Jeremy Corbyn was a “puzzle” to him after he was probed about how the Labour leader had fired shadow cabinet members who held differing views on Brexit.