This afternoon at 6pm a number of MPs will be able to take a step in the right direction for those of us who have had serious concerns about the way that the European Union referendum was handled. Perhaps more significantly the debate will include a call for a public inquiry into the conduct of the European Union referendum. The debate will take place in the Westminster Hall which has been closed down since March until today. After many months of no debates on any petitions, three are all going to be debated today in Westminster. Sadly there is no provision for MPs who are unable to attend due to their health or the restrictions of the numbers who can enter the Hall so some of our Sussex MPs may be unable to attend and express their views. Let us hope that those who are prevented from attending will publicly explain their views in the next few days. Along with the petition that called for a public inquiry the other petitions both relate to our nation’s departure from the EU. It is significant that this debate comes at the end of our Governments negotiations with the EU and after the discussion between our Prime Minister and the leader of the European Union. Let us hope that these stages will avoid any more economic or relational damage than we have already suffered with our European colleagues.
I hope that today’s debate will respond to the decision to call on our nation to have a referendum and the way in which a number of Parliamentarians and campaigners like Dominic Cummings dealt with the process and the publicity that emerged during the campaign. Those of us who were entitled to vote were called to make a decision which we were told was for the whole of our lifetimes and yet the nature of the decision and what the alternatives if we remained in the EU were all cast in a great deal of mist. Some of the claims from both sides of the campaign were extremely dubious and even involved lies and deceits. It seems clear to me that David Cameron who stated that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that the decision would be adopted by the Government without any questions were both false claims. This approach ignored the fact that Parliament constantly holds multiple voting opportunities for themselves on subjects and that all referendums are legally guidance only responses. My view is that he made those claims because he genuinely expected our nation to reject departure and he wanted to close down the departure campaigning for good as a result. Indeed it was that failure that led him to resign as the Prime Minister, even though his party had received a reasonable majority at the election a year earlier.
Some of the other disturbing aspects were that before the referendum took place, a number of very high profile people made statements that one would expect them to adopt subsequently. In the few weeks before the referendum Nigel Farage stated that if the votes were close (48%-52% was what he referred to) that he would call for another referendum following the result. While he was stating this if he lost, his win took place under the same marginal result. Many other people such as David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Redwood had all been calling for a two referendum processes to be adopted to ensure that everyone was clear about the way forward. Sadly they all ignored these issues after the result of the vote on the 23rd June 2016. Whatever happens this afternoon, it is vital that all Sussex residents can learn how their group of local MPs are responding to these themes. Clearly we can hope that some of the Sussex MPs will participate in the Parliamentary debate and their words will be recorded and placed on file for us all to be able to see. However the others will appear silent on this subject unless we can find ways of hearing from all of them on a theme that will impact us very significantly over the next few decades. Our Sussex based MPs have so far refused to hold meaningful discussions in a public context outside of Parliament. This is very disappointing, particularly as the Sussex MPs do work together on themes such as the meeting they held two weeks ago with the South-East Coast Ambulance Service. This was undoubtedly a very important meeting, but these local representatives need to become more engaged with residents from across Sussex. A few days ago one of them stated “As MPs, we are just bit players in the history of our Parliament” and that may be true, but they all have the capacity to be significant in this region!