‘If people want to be able to achieve change through democratic means, if they feel that that is being denied to them, they then turn to other more socially disruptive ways of expressing their views, and that is the danger here’
A second public vote on membership of the European Union could result in civil disobedience and social disruption, the shadow international trade secretary has warned.
His remarks came as The Independent’s campaign for a Final Sayreferendum on any Brexit deal reached by Theresa May gathered pace, with more than 660,000 people having signed the petition.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Labour shadow cabinet minister said Remain and Leave campaigners told voters at the 2016 referendum that their decision “will determine the future of our country for the next 40 or 50 years”.
“We meant it,” he said. “Yes it may well be and I certainly believe that we will in the short and medium term be worse off economically as a result of Brexit and certainly the way the government is going.”
But he added: “If you then say to people ‘We did give you a vote and actually we, the Remainers, lost the vote, but because you were stupid enough to do what you wanted rather than what we wanted’, and what those people who want a second referendum are now saying, ‘Well, because you voted in the wrong way, we’ll give you another chance to get it right’ – that undermines the whole principle of democracy in this country.
“You never give as much succour to the extreme right as when you cut off the mechanism of democratic change.
“If people want to be able to achieve change through democratic means, if they feel that that is being denied to them, they then turn to other more socially disruptive ways of expressing their views, and that is the danger here.”
Pressed on whether he believed there would be violence on the streets if a second vote was granted, he added: “I didn’t say violence on the streets.
“What I’m saying in any situation if people feel the root to change is no longer a democratic route then you look to social disruption, perhaps civil disobedience, in a different way and this is playing with our democracy, it’s playing with the foundations of country in a way that is really damaging.
“We have to respect people’s vote in that referendum – we told them we would, we must do it.”