Tuesday 31 January will mark the third anniversary of the UK leaving the EU. What is remarkable is that in that time, despite the claim that Brexit would return sovereignty to our parliament there has not been a debate on the subject in the House of Commons. In a normal functioning democracy, it would be unconscionable that the sovereign parliament was not given the opportunity to hold any sort of debate on one of the most important changes to the United Kingdom in the 21st Century.
However that should be about to change now that the petition “We call upon the government to hold a public inquiry in to the impact of Brexit” has reached 100,000 signatures. This means it will now be debated in parliament.
Brexit inquiry petition
The petition was set up by the pro-EU group Leeds for Europe as a response to the government’s total lack of transparency around the subject of the impact of Brexit and the opposition’s refusal to engage with the subject other than making bland promises about making Brexit work.
Meanwhile the media is full of stories of the difficulties Brexit has bought to almost every part of the UK and it is reported that Leavers are becoming more and more dissatisfied with Brexit. The polling expert John Cutice told Robert Peston this week that leave supporters had become far less confident about the economic benefits of Brexit. So surely now is the time to find out the truth? Surely, we have a right to know?
The petition has enjoyed the support of many commentators and media figures, with the journalist Peter Oborne writing in his column in Byline Times this week that he had signed the petition because “Ordering an inquiry is the kind of sensible thing a responsible government would automatically do, whatever the success or failure of the project itself”. There is also evidence that there is support amongst the general public with the independent polling company Omnisis finding that 62% of British people support having a Public Inquiry in polling on 19 January.
We need answers
Holding a public inquiry should not be controversial, however we need the answers to the following issues (plus others):
- We need to more fully understand the nature of the impact of the government’s particularly hard-line version of Brexit. The government maintains that Covid and the Ukraine war make it impossible to specifically assess the economic consequences of Brexit. We doubt that that is true – and we think that the government is saying that purely because it doesn’t want a public inquiry.
- Brexit has been a significant contributing factor in labour shortages – but we need a public inquiry to provide an objective assessment that will help both government and opposition parties (and civil society in general) to propose and develop remedies.
- We need to know the degree to which Brexit has been compromising consumer rights and food safety.
- The British people are entitled to know what impact Brexit, as opposed to other shorter-term causation factors, is having on food prices, trade and inflation.
- We all have a right to know what impact Brexit is having, and is likely to have, on the fight against crime.
- The UK public are also entitled to have a sober, objective, non-party-political, non-partisan assessment of how Brexit has impacted (and could impact) Northern Ireland – both economically, politically and in security terms.
- We need to know the extent of the damage Brexit has had on the education and research sectors and how it can be remedied.
- There should be an objective assessment of whether Brexit has directly or indirectly played any part in stimulating or facilitating the surge in dangerous and often lethal small-boat refugee movements across the Channel.
- In terms of foreign policy, has Brexit reduced or increased our influence abroad?
- To what extent has Brexit contributed to damaging the NHS? That’s essential to know – because such an assessment would help put the problems facing our NHS in a more objective context.
- Finally, to what extent did Brexit (and the possibility of any perceived potential weakening of the European Union) play any part in helping to embolden Russia and make it initially think that European reactions to its appalling intended invasion of Ukraine would be less robust than it has been?
Brexit Inquiry Campaign
A campaign group, Brexit Inquiry Campaign, has been set up to publicise the petition and to lobby politicians to attend the debate in parliament. The campaign is dedicated exclusively to trying to persuade parliament and the government to support setting up a full and independent public inquiry.
Passing 100,000 signatures is not the end of the petition, it runs until 19 May 2023 and the more people who sign the more pressure the government is under to hold the debate. You can sign here. And you can follow the Brexit Inquiry Campaign on Twitter @InquiryBrexit or the website.