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Brexit vote must be respected but chaos lies ahead

The vote to leave the EU is probably the biggest political event that will happen in most of our lifetimes. The magnitude of the decision has been amplified by the fact that most people – including many who voted to leave – didn’t see it coming.

The first thing we must do is to accept the result.

(This article written by David Ellesmere was published in the Ipswich Star on Monday 27 June, but due to staff holiday only appears here today).

I’ve heard people say that somehow the decision isn’t valid because it was so “close”. It might look that way if you look at the 52% / 48% split but the fact is that over a million people more voted to leave than to remain.

An online petition has been launched to call for a second referendum. It won’t work and it shouldn’t. We are a democracy and that means abiding by the results of votes, even if we don’t agree with the outcome.

For good or ill, leaving the EU is what the country has voted for. We all need to pull together and try and make it work.

To do that we need a plan, and we need one urgently.

This is something that has really worried me since Thursday: it appears the Leave campaign has got absolutely no idea about what to do next.

In less than 24 hours we have had prominent Leave members junk promise after promise made in the referendum campaign. Nigel Farage has said that there won’t be £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS. Daniel Hannan has said that immigration won’t be cut. And Liam Fox has said that we don’t need to trigger “Article 50” to start the process of leaving the EU.

This is astonishing. If a vote for Leave wasn’t a vote for lower immigration and higher NHS spending –  if it wasn’t even a vote for coming out of Europe – then what was it a vote for?

This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

In the aftermath of the Leave vote, share prices have fallen and the value of the pound has plummeted. As a result, in less than a day, we have dropped from being the fifth largest economy in the world to the sixth.

Investment decisions are being cancelled or put on hold. They won’t get going again properly until businesses get some certainty about what’s going to happen next. At the moment we don’t even have answers to basic questions like what trading model we’re going to follow.

Short term economic pain caused by Brexit is inevitable and was predicted. But the longer we take to get things sorted out the more likely it is that the economic damage will become permanent.

The national plan for Britain’s future cannot be decided just by a narrow clique of Tory MPs.

The vote to leave the EU was a great cry against a status quo that has left too many people behind.

A status quo where workers have to take pay cuts to compete with migrant labour. Where a pregnant woman has to give birth in a works toilet because she fears losing her job if she takes time off.

Where the Welfare State is being dismantled and our NHS is systematically being starved of cash and privatised.

A status quo where the rich get are given tax cuts and the arrogant bankers who crashed the economy in 2008 are still running things.

Can you really see that changing with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove running the show?

Currently, no one has a mandate to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. I think it is likely that we will have to have an early General Election decide this.

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