Matt Frei is Leading Britain's Conversation.
20 August 2017, 12:53
Owen Jones says the way some Brexiteers lambast Remainers is reminiscent of 'Stalinist Russia', but one thing he agrees with them on, is that a second referendum would be a very bad idea right now.
The government has set out its key elements of its Brexit strategy, aiming for a 'soft landing to a hard Brexit'.
Owen Jones, standing in for Maajid Nawaz, asked his listeners whether they would welcome a second referendum following the news.
Owen, who voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, said it is not people who voted leave he has an issue with - it's the way the campaign was carried out.
He added that the day the result was announced was one of the "worst days of my life", but he went on to explain why he's not calling for a second referendum.
Owen said: " Anyone who dissented from the model of Brexit our government is pursuing was portrayed as a traitor, let's just be honest. "Enemies of the people", do remember that? Sort of phrase you mighr expect in Stalinist Russia, not Britain. "Saboteurs", "unpatriotic", anyone who dissented or even critiqued what the government was doing.
"And I've tried to push back on that, because I think in a democracy like our own, you should be able to speak out whatever you think about Brexit. Now, at the same time as all of that, it's been a bit of a mess hasn't it? Come on, it has.
"We've already gone through the longest squeeze in wages since the Napoleonic wars, only Greece of any major industrialised country has had such a fall in wages as us.
"And what's happened since the referendum, and actually that fall in wages helped drive what so many people voted to leave, since then, wages of start to fall all over again.
"Now I think if we look at what's already kind of unfolding, it looks a bit chaotic doesn't it? You know, so chaotic is the government's negotiating position, that the EU is openly speculating that they're doing it as some sort of clever strategy.
"Do you remember that photo when David Davis, our Brexit Secretary, turned up to negotiate with the EU and they didn't have any papers, they turned up with nothing whatsoever, to negotiate with the EU.
"It didn't exactly give me much confidence, I'm not going to lie. The German government's openly saying 'they've got no strategy', our government. There's the issue of the divorce bill, which could be tens of billions probably better spent on things like the NHS, education, housing, you name it, it is a mess.
"So you're probably listening to all of this and thinking, 'well why aren't I calling for a second referendum? ' and I'm not going to do that, and the reason for that is however ugly and poisonous I think that campaign was- and I didn't even say the lies about the NHS, the £350 million, where is the three hundred fifty million? - is that we lost. I lost.
"The day I lost that referendum- I? Sorry, delusions of grandeur. The day WE lost the referendum, was one of the worst days of my life. And, you know, I thought very hard about what sort of country we're going to end up being. But we lost.
"And my view ever since then is that we've just got to make the best of this. We've got to get the best possible Brexit, because many of the people who voted Leave, who I know personally, felt disillusioned, and angry, and ignored, and isolated.
"They thought the establishment was sticking their finger up at them and they said it's our turn to stick the finger right back at them. If you try to, in my view, overturn that referendum, the anger that would be caused, would permanently damage our democracy. I think it would.
"I think millions of remain voters don't want that to happen either, their view is we just got to make the best of this, I don't think this government can do it, I think it's a mess under this government, it's an embarrassment, they've turned us into an international laughing stock.
"You know we're like that guy at the end of the night in a pub, and everyone's looking at him and thinking 'oh he's had a little too much to drink, don't make eye contact with him'.
"This is a great country, a brilliant country, a country we should be proud of, and our government, because the Tories did the referendum for cynical political gain, and then they called a snap election for cynical gain, to destroy the Labour Party.
"Chris Patten, a senior Tory, said that the actions of those two prime ministers had left this country in a real state, but my view is, however bad the situation is, we've got to make the best of it we can.
"That can't happen under the Tories, but that's why I don't think, despite my grievances, there should be a second referendum. We should accept the result, unless there's a big change in public opinion and Brexit's a total disaster, we have to get the best Brexit we can."