'A Moment Of National Crisis': Labour Party MP Calls For 2nd Brexit ReferendumPlay
Theresa May will keep her job as British prime minister, after surviving a no-confidence vote Wednesday by members of her Conservative Party. British politics had been thrown into chaos and Brexit into doubt after lawmakers triggered the vote.
As NPR reports, it's a "critical victory" for May in the ongoing political battle over the U.K.'s exit from the EU:
With the win, May will retain leadership of the Tories — but face the same struggle to cobble together support for the trade deal she negotiated with the European Union.
Labour Party Member of Parliament David Lammy tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson he sees a second referendum as a solution to Brexit acrimony, arguing that the British people by and large didn't know what they were voting on in June 2016. Some who are opposed to a second referendum say it would be a betrayal.
"We've now had for the last 2 1/2 years a very heated debate — a debate that it would have been nice if we'd had for the last 30 years — about our relationship with Europe," Lammy (@DavidLammy) says. "I think the British public are more informed, but more importantly, they can vote on something that is in front of them: You've got Theresa May's deal and all that's been said about it, and you have what you know already, which is our relationship with the European Union within the European Union."
A speech Lammy gave before the House of Commons, in which he drew a comparison between Brexit and Britain's colonial past, recently went viral. Those who hope leaving the EU will facilitate what some have called "Empire 2.0" seem to have forgotten the British Empire's negative impact on other countries and people of color, Lammy says.
"During that period some terrible things were done that involved slavery and enslaved people and involved the subjugation of lots of colonial people across the globe," he says. "When you go to negotiate with the Indians, they will remind you of that sorry period in which their country was being run from London."
On why he thinks the U.K. should remain in the EU
"I've always believed that the best place for the United Kingdom to be is within the European Union. I recognize that there have been concerns about the sovereignty of the U.K. and some of the bureaucracy of the European Union. But ultimately, I, like many Brits and certainly the 48 percent that voted 'remain,' believe that whilst there are issues with the European Union, Britain is better off with a seat at the table, leading from the front and trying to reform the European Union, not outside it."
"Ultimately, this will have to be settled by the British public in a second referendum where they can instruct politicians, 'This is what we want you to do,' and I hope that that instruction is to remain within the European Union."David Lammy
On factors that could lead to a second Brexit referendum
"The difficulty is when there was this referendum campaign, a whole load of things were said by those that wanted to leave the European Union — most of which could never be delivered, and certainly not delivered without considerable pain. So there is no configuration of a deal that can easily get through the U.K. Parliament, and just to explain this to an American audience, if you want to leave with a hard Brexit — just a trade deal and nothing else with the European Union, similar to the sort of trade deal that Canada has with the European Union — then you're going to create a hard border in Northern Ireland and go back to the bad old days in Northern Ireland, and you're going to have quite a lot of turbulence in our trade. Our trade at the moment within the single market is frictionless. So there are lots of Parliamentarians that won't accept that.
"If you go for a softer Brexit, something more like the relationship that Norway has with the European Union, then you're into a situation where free movement more or less continues across Europe, and that was a big issue for those who wanted to leave in terms of immigration, and quite a lot of people will not accept that. The problem here is, this is a curate's egg — it's very hard to get a Brexit that can command a majority in the House of Commons and hasn't got enemies.
"For all of those reasons, I think ultimately, this will have to be settled by the British public in a second referendum where they can instruct politicians, 'This is what we want you to do,' and I hope that that instruction is to remain within the European Union."
On his House of Commons speech decrying nostalgia about the British Empire among some Brexit supporters
"There are two aspects to this point. The first is it's absolutely clear that people like Nigel Farage, who led the UKIP party and has in part been responsible for this decision to Brexit, want to re-create something they call 'Empire 2.0.' It is an idea that harks back to Britain's colonial past, in which they seem to have forgotten that Britain took those countries that were pink on the map by force, not by negotiation ... And indeed, there are countries like the United States that fought off the Brits and said, 'No thank you. We want to go our own way.' So it's a conceit to give the idea that somehow Britain can re-create this, because Britain surely can't re-create this.
"I think the second point to this is that Britain sometimes tells itself a story that is a story of winning the Second World War almost as if we sort of stood alone in the darkest hour. That is not in fact right. The Americans helped us considerably and bankrolled us actually for years after the Second World War, and lots of Commonwealth soldiers from places like India, the Caribbean, but also New Zealand, Australia, Canada, assisted us in that Second World War enterprise. So we were never a sovereign state doing it entirely on our own. It was always through key alliances and key diplomacy. Well that is what the European Union is, that is why it was forged."
Alex Ashlock produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.
This article was originally published on December 12, 2018.
This segment aired on December 12, 2018.