Although the EU referendum was lost by those who wanted to remain in the EU, the margin was very small. Out of nearly 34 million people who voted in the UK, only 1.4 million more people voted to Leave than to Remain. In Bristol, nearly two thirds of people who voted (62%) voted to Remain in the EU.
Whilst the referendum result itself should be respected, the fact is that such a small margin in the UK to leave the EU (51.9% to 48.1%) in such a momentous and irrevocable decision should not be enough to put our and our children’s and grandchildren’s future at risk. In England and Wales, young people under 18 did not have a vote, even though the result will impact even more on them in the future. Their right to study, work and live (and retire) in the EU will become more difficult as restrictions are imposed. The Green Party has always said that 16 and 17 year olds should have the right to vote.
Post the EU referendum, the pound has already fallen to its lowest level in over 30 years, and there are already signs of the economy slowing down. The future of EU citizens living in Britain is uncertain, with Theresa May, the leading contender to become Prime Minister after David Cameron’s resignation, refusing to give any guarantees regarding their future; many are worried.
Because this decision, if implemented by the UK, will be in effect irreversible, the Green Party is calling for people to be given a second opportunity to vote on leaving the EU once the British Government has proposed its terms for leaving. Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of the EU, the process to leave the EU cannot begin unless and until the UK gives notice to the European Council of its intention to leave. The Green Party believes that parliament must be given an opportunity to vote on the terms it proposes to ask for, since nobody yet knows under what terms the UK Government will seek to leave. Therefore it is right that the people of the UK are given an opportunity to voice their opinion on this in a referendum before any notification under Article 50 to leave the EU is given by the UK Government to the European Council.
It is important that we do not simply allow our children’s future to be possibly thrown away without challenging it and asking questions, and if necessary, taking action to stop it.