Many people are feeling a profound sense of sadness at the prospect of the UK, or England and Wales at least, leaving the EU. I share this feeling and remain convinced that our future would be much safer and more prosperous inside the European Union. This is not the result that Greens wanted; many activists and Green Party members worked tirelessly for many months to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. Personally, I worked as hard as I know how, travelling the region, making the arguments and listening to people on both sides.
People are understandably searching for reassurance and the referendum result has prompted a plethora of reactions and ideas about what we should do now. Many people feel that the referendum was won on a false prospectus, and was a vote against something that had been turned into a bogeyman and with no alternative on offer. I agree with this.
I was also profoundly shocked by the tactics of intimidation that were used during the campaign, and the inability of people to listen to views they did not share. Being able to do so is the basis of democracy and I feel our most important task now is to stand together to defend democracy and the standards of public debate that we have traditionally enjoyed. We must stand with communities across the UK to fight racism, xenophobia and discrimination; stronger communities can help heal the divisions caused by the referendum campaign.
I believe that the calls for an immediate rerun of the referendum would be undemocratic and add strength to the argument of those who say their voice is not heard. However, this voice was only one of opposition, with no clear sense of what the alternative to EU membership might be. I therefore believe that it would be valid to allow a second vote in the future, when it is clear what the alternative to EU membership would look like.
Although many of the debates during the referendum campaign were focused on European issues, underlying it was a power grab by senior politicians seeking to move our country radically to the right. Since people from both right and left voted to leave the EU and there are a wide range of views about how we should proceed post-Brexit, the result has no weight in terms of what happens at Westminster. Also, because the Prime Minister has resigned and Brexit will bring huge political upheaval, including the possible breakup of the United Kingdom, people should have a chance to have their say on the sort of country we want to build together. This means that in my view an early general election before the end of year is inevitable.
Greens will be campaigning hard for democratic reform in the UK and for changing our outmoded electoral system to one that is truly representative. We will explore possibilities for electoral alliances and pacts where we can agree on a progressive programme and commitment to proportional representation.
I thank those of you who worked so hard to preserve our place in the Union that we value so much and I appreciate the very many messages of support and solidarity that you have sent. These are dark days but by showing each other compassion and by standing together strongly in support of a revitalised democracy we can find a way to build a stronger and more peaceful country.
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