WE are now more than two years on from the referendum vote to leave the European Union.
However, despite the chance the Prime Minister had in her speech at the Conservative conference this week to shed some light on the issue, we are still no clearer about what Brexit will actually mean.
Of course, it is important the Brexit vote – albeit by a narrow margin of 52 to 48 per cent – is respected. That is why I voted in February last year to trigger Article 50 and allow the Government to start Brexit negotiations.
I genuinely believe the EU needs reform – particularly on immigration. However, at the moment, we look set to lose all of the benefits of EU membership with none of the benefits that the Brexiteers promised.
The Government has made little headway towards securing a good deal. In fact, Theresa May has lost her Brexit Secretary and her Foreign Secretary, while large parts of her party want to ‘chuck Chequers’ – the Government’s plan for EU trade agreed at the PM’s country home in July.
One thing is clear from the chaos surrounding the Government’s negotiations. While there might have been a chance of Britain securing a good Brexit agreement two years ago, there is no chance of that happening now.
Whether we are left with Theresa May’s version of Brexit, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s plan, a cliff-edge Brexit, or some other kind of Brexit, we know it will be a bad deal for Britain – thanks to the Government’s terrible handling of our exit from the EU.
We also know some changes that are already happening as a result of Brexit. Food prices are rising in the shops and some firms are finding it harder to recruit workers. Important roles within the NHS are left unfilled.
As chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in Parliament, I have heard evidence about how some drug companies are having to stockpile medicines and the uncertainty surrounding the supply chains in the aviation and car industries.
According to some experts, Brexit is already costing the public purse around £500m a week – a very different figure from the £350m “dividend” splashed as a slogan across a bus during the referendum campaign.
The £500m cost is the conclusion of the Centre for European Reform which warned the UK economy was already 2.5 per cent smaller than it would have been Britain had voted to remain in the EU.
These rising costs and the looming prospect of a disastrous Brexit deal are a million miles away from the promises made by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.
That is why I have made the decision to support a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal. I am convinced this is the right thing to do now that we know people are not getting what they were promised. We need to ensure the people get the last word on the final Brexit deal.
By supporting a People’s Vote, I am not looking to rerun the 2016 referendum. But the Leave campaign made a host of promises that we now know will not happen.
There will be no massive boost for the NHS. It is extremely unlikely that we will be able to keep all our trade with the EU and simultaneously grow our trading links with rest of the world.
It is now clear the reality of what Brexit will mean is very different from what we were told in 2016.
That is why I believe the public must decide whether any Brexit deal the Government brings back is good enough.
There is far too much at stake for everyone in Yorkshire and across the country to allow a Brexit deal to be decided by a coterie of Tory MPs at Westminster.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, one in seven jobs are directly linked to EU trade. The risks of a bad Brexit deal to our region are alarmingly high.
A poor deal could hit almost everywhere from the major trade gateway at the Humber ports to our universities and hospitals that employ some of the highest-skilled workers from across the EU.
Our Yorkshire-based supermarkets that rely on the just-in-time delivery of food and drink to keep prices low could also suffer. According to Asda, a third of the groceries in our shopping trolleys come from the EU. We could also lose crucial environmental protections that help safeguard food quality.
From this county’s farmers who export their produce to dinner tables across Europe to Yorkshire-based jobs in financial services – a sector that the Chequers deal does not even pretend to include – every section of our local economy would be damaged by a bad deal.
If Brexit triggers another round of Tory austerity cuts, then it is public services in Leeds and across Yorkshire that would be among the hardest-hit. And, the Government has still to come up with a workable solution for the Irish border post-Brexit.
For all these reasons, it is crucial we get a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. It is only right the public get the final say on one of the most important decisions for Britain in decades.
Rachel Reeves is the Labour MP for Leeds West. She chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in Parliament.