Brexit bitterness could fester for years, warns former Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Posted on Nov 18 2018 - 11:22pm by admin

But he also appeared to rule out the idea of a second referendum, instead stressing the importance of consensus going forward. Mr Brown, who replaced Tony Blair in 2007, serving as Prime Minister for three years until being ousted after the 2010 general election, made his comments in a columns for the Financial Times in which he suggested the creation of royal commission to listen to the views of the nation in a bid to “find common ground”. Addressing the polarised nature of the debate over leaving the EU, Mr Brown said: “We need to do far more if we are to reunite a now bitterly divided country.

“What’s more, these divisions could merely worsen.

“The danger is that the next two years will simply be a rerun of the last two, with all the important long-term questions – our economic future, the integrity of the United Kingdom, our role in the world – relegated to the bottom of the agenda.”

Mr Brown said he feared a situation in which Parliament was “in stalemate” with the breakdown in trust between the competing points of view simply accelerating.

He added: “We must renounce the unsatisfactory, inward-looking, partisan and inevitably piecemeal decision-making process of the past 30 months.

“In the old days, political parties saw their role as aggregating and then articulating grassroots views.

“But to the British people the parties seem – like social media – to be dominated by those with the loudest voice.”

Instead, Mr Brown advocated what he termed a “new way of enabling British people’s voices to be heard”.

He explained: “This would not be a rerun of the last referendum.

“Rather I propose that we particularly examine those contentious issues where the situation has changed significantly since 2016.”

Suggesting the creation of a “new kind of royal commission”, he added: “I envisage bringing together in each region a representative panel of a few hundred citizens, engaging them in a day’s dialogue to deliberate on arguments presented by informed opinion leaders and advocates from both sides – and testing whether pro and anti-Brexit voters can find any common ground.

“Each side of the Brexit debate might also come to recognise that many concerns raised by those who voted to leave – stagnant wages, manufacturing decline, rundown town centres and rising child poverty – were no caused by the EU and cannot be solved by leaving. 

“They require imaginative new policies.”

Such an initiative could be a way of engaging in a “constructive, outward-looking conversation” about Britain’s future, Mr Brown suggested.

He said: “If the government is unable or unwilling to sponsor such a platform, then perhaps a bipartisan advisory group, representing respected national institutions, can lead such a unique consultation.

“Reuniting a divided country and moving forward once again will take time and more than one initiative.

“But no real progress is possible until we abandon the short-term and over-partisan approaches of the past two years.

“Given the now rapid descent into resignations and recriminations, the task of doing so cannot begin quickly enough.”

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