Local Conservative MP and Brexit supporter Alex Chalk joined a capacity crowd in Cheltenham today where he heard calls for a People’s Vote from the leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable, former Labour minister Andrew Adonis, Green Party MEP Ellie Chowds, Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton and a host of local campaigners.
Speaking from the same platform in Cheltenham town hall in a Remain voting constituency where he has a wafer-thin majority over the Liberal Democrats, he explained why he was still not ready to back a People’s Vote - but insisted he has come to listen.
His appearance at the event comes ahead of further crunch votes in Parliament this autumn where he will again come under intense pressure from local people to give them the final say on Brexit.
A recent Populus opinion poll showed just 34 per cent of voters in the Cheltenham constituency support the No Deal departure from the European Union which both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – the final two candidates to be the next Conservative leader - say they are prepared to consider.
Faced with a choice between this form of Brexit and handing back the decision to British people, the Populus survey found 65 per cent of Cheltenham voters would support a new referendum.
Mr Chalk was told by local businessman Julian Dunkerton, founder of Superdry, that his business would not exist without the EU: “Economically it will be a disaster if we leave, it will be a divorce from Hell. Superdry is a very special company to me, obviously I founded it, and we simply wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the European Union.
“It meant there were no boundaries to our expansion plans. Britain is only 50-60 million people, it is not big enough to build a world class company. If we want build that scale of company you need access to those hundreds of millions of people.
“We can win this if we are given he chance,” he said turning to Mr Chalk, “and Alex you are ignoring the evidence of all the opinion polls when you’re saying we can’t win. We can win.”
Mr Chalk told the rally: “Every single Briton in this room is a patriot. I recognise the pride you take in this country and its values and I don’t subscribe to the ideal that 48-52 in the referendum was a mandate for a tungsten hard Brexit.”
“No deal would be very difficult and damaging for our country, where so much of our industry has been forged around the certainty of just in time supply chains. It would mean no implementation period, immediate tariffs, relations with the rest of the EU would be damaged by an almighty row about how much of that £39bn would be paid.
“Avoiding No Deal is the territory on which sensible, pragmatic moderates should choose to fight.”
One of Mr Chalk’s local Conservative councillor, Viv Matthews, said she was fully behind a Peoples Vote:
“Three years ago I was convinced that walking away from the biggest trading block in the world was a mistake, and I voted remain. Now in the light of the unfolding chaos of industrial inertia, job losses and Government failures before us I am even more of that view, I desperately want another vote.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable said:“Brexit hasn’t happened yet but it is doing great damage to our country - we are the laughing stock of the world.
“The system is completely paralysed. And the economy has had a slow puncture, it is in decline, there is no investment in industry.
“One quarter of one percent of the electorate are meeting to decide who the next prime minster should be. They are on track to elect a PM who believes we can charge out of the EU without a deal.
“It will be a disaster for the economy, the health service. The NHS is worried stiff from the managers down to the nursing staff - We can resolve this problem in a much better way and that better way if to ask the people.”
Former cabinet minister, Lord Andrew Adonis said: “We want a Peoples Vote to stop Brexit and we want it this year. We do not want to destroy our trade and jobs, we our young people to be able to live, love, work and travel across all the countries of the EU.”
Green Party MEP Ellie Chowns, “I am proud to be fighting with you to keep us in the EU – we are stronger together.
“Thank you for holding onto hope, thank you for your tireless campaigning, thank you for helping to shift the dial.”
And campaigner Alastair Campbell, ended the capacity crowd by stressing: “So there are just three words I want you to take away today. We. Can. Win . “We can get a people’s vote. And we can win a people’s vote.”
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio a student leader at Bristol University, said the latest Brexit plan is a “recipe for destruction” for young people, saying: "We need to fight to have our say on whether we go through with a Brexit that will deepen the divide in our society, make us poorer, put our NHS, our Universities and Colleges, our jobs, and human rights at risk, or whether we choose to have a People’s Vote.”
Notes to Editors: The People’s Vote Cheltenham Rally took place at: Cheltenham Town Hall, Imperial Square, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA