Emily Thornberry told a packed People’s Vote “Let Us Be Heard” rally in Uxbridge, the London constituency of Boris Johnson, that the “shameless, craven and cowardly” local MP’s plan to impose Brexit on the rest of the country posed a real danger to every citizen of the UK.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary was appearing on a People’s Vote platform for the first time, just days after Jeremy Corbyn signalled he was ready to campaign for a final say referendum on any Brexit outcome.
She said the British people must have their voice heard on whether Boris Johnson’s version of Brexit is the future they want through a referendum – and emphasised that in such a vote, she will be throwing her full-throated support behind all those campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU.
“I stand here today and say to you that the Labour Party must and will campaign unequivocally to have that People’s Vote, and campaign unequivocally to Remain.
“Because if Labour’s position since 2016 has been to argue for an outcome to this process, which does the least harm to jobs and the economy, then no matter what deal is on the table, and regardless of which party has negotiated it, our position when it comes to a new referendum must be to remain in the European Union, because that is logically the way to do the least harm to our jobs and the economy.
“I want the British public to have the final say on Brexit. I want a new People’s Vote. I will demand a new People’s Vote. And I will campaign unequivocally to Remain.”
Ms Thornberry, acknowledging that Labour had previously said it would respect the result of the last referendum, added:
“The truth is we are more than three years on from that referendum, but we are also three million miles away from the promises that were made to Leave Voters during that referendum.
“There is no £350 million a week extra for the NHS. There is no cut in VAT on fuel bills. There is no golden era of free trade waiting round the corner. The only thing waiting round the corner, or waiting over the cliff more like, is chaos at our ports and airports, the mass destruction of jobs and industry, shortages in our supermarkets and chemists, and huge damage to our public services.
And if Labour’s original responsibility as democrats was to respect the result of the referendum, then our responsibility today as democrats is to demand that we go back to the British people and ask: ‘Is this the change you voted for? Is this the Brexit you wanted? Or shall we avoid all that damage and Remain?”
In her speech at Oak Wood School, Ms Thornberry rounded on Boris Johnson, the local MP and favourite to become the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister, saying:
“We’ve all heard Boris Johnson say that ‘Do Or Die’, the UK will leave the EU by Halloween. Well I’m sorry Mr Johnson, but if you’re discussing options where our country will die, then that should not just be a decision for you. That should not just be a decision for those 160,000 Tory members living on fat retirement pensions in the Home Counties. That must be a decision for all of the British people in a second referendum, and that’s what we’ll demand.”
“But there’s something else, friends. Something else about Boris Johnson. We can see him as a bumbling fool. We can see him a joke figure hanging off a zip-wire. We can see him as a Poundshop version of Donald Trump. But the point is – just like Donald Trump – he is a serious danger.
“Because if you’re in any position of power, let alone the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, your words and actions may be laughable and contemptible, but they have consequences for the world and for ordinary people’s lives. And we all need to wake up to the danger that Boris Johnson poses for our country.
Ms Thornberry, who as Shadow Foreign Secretary faced Boris Johnson across the dispatch box for two years, went to on to attack his record in office and, in particular his close links with Donald Trump.
“Boris Johnson was the worst, the laziest, the most incompetent Minister I have ever had to shadow during my time in Parliament, but also the most dangerous. And if his ‘Do Or Die’ words on Brexit this week weren’t enough of a warning about the danger he poses to our country, then this week we got the biggest warning yet with his treatment of Sir Kim Darroch: a man who has been forced to resign from his job, simply for doing his job. Thrown under the bus by Boris Johnson in the most shameless, craven and cowardly act of servitude I have ever seen in politics.
And why? Because Boris Johnson has decided that when he marches us off a cliff in October, what will save us will be the warm and welcoming hands of President Donald Trump. Well I don’t know about you, friends, but I don’t want Donald Trump’s hands anywhere near me. And I don’t want our country’s fate to be in the hands of that racist, sexist, bullying monstrosity of a President. I don’t want a trade deal with America, which means chlorinated chicken, and US health insurance companies invading our NHS, and raiding our personal medical health data.
Ms Thornberry was joined by other speakers including Gavin Esler, the broadcaster and writer; Will Dry, campaigner from Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC); Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, Chair of the BMA Junior doctors committee; Erica Ramos, Vice-President of NUS and campaigner from For Our Future’s Sake (FFS); Ranjeet Rathore, Student Union president, Brunel University.
Erica Ramos said Vice-President of NUS and campaigner from For Our Future’s Sake (FFS), said:
“Do we live in a democracy, or not? I believe that we do, and that in a democracy, the people - not Boris Johnson, not 0.25%, but all the people - get a chance to shape our own futures. There is only one way to break the deadlock. A final underline to legitimise whatever the outcome. A People’s Vote.”
Ranjeet Rathore, Student Union president at Brunel University in Uxbridge, said:
“What I am finding it hard to absorb or understand, that it is genuinely shocking that candidates in the competition to be the new Prime Minister, will be chosen by less than 0.25% of our population.
“These two front-runners are ready to inflict this car crash Brexit on the public without giving the people a chance to be heard. People did not vote for the destructive No Deal Brexit favoured by people like Nigel Farage – which was barely mentioned in the last referendum.”