The last three years have shown there is no safe way to deliver Brexit, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told a People’s Vote rally in London today as he said it was time to revoke Article 50 and call a second referendum.
Addressing the packed event ahead of tomorrow’s crucial EU summit, Mr Picardo reminded the audience that Gibraltar had voted 96% for Remain in the 2016 referendum.
“But we’re democrats in Gibraltar and we accepted the result,” he said. “What could we do?”
“But there is no safe way to deliver the result, that is what has become clear in the last three years.”
“And people have started to change their minds. The reality of Brexit has started to change people’s minds.”
And he added to cheers and applause: “If they tell us they don’t want us to vote again, it’s because they know that now we will be voting knowing the truth of what Brexit represents.”
The Chief Minister, who is in London to attend a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council on Brexit and Gibraltar, was invited to address the rally by Tony Blair’s former spokesman Alastair Campbell, one of the organisers.
During his speech Mr Picardo reflected on how prominent Leave campaigners had changed their stance from the referendum to now.
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hardline Brexiteer, had said during the referendum that it would be “fair enough” to vote again once a deal was on the table. Likewise UKIP’s Nigel Farage had said that if the Brexiteers lost, they would campaign for another referendum.
“Well, if the kamikaze leavers have changed their mind, why can’t the people change their mind?” Mr Picardo told the rally.
“It’s time to go back to basics. It’s time for the three Rs: Revoke. Referendum. And Remain.”
“The only thing that the other side are afraid of is the truth,” he said.
“But let absolutely no one think that it’s only the leavers that are patriotic and only the leavers that believe in the Union Jack.”
“Because when it comes to the people of Gibraltar, there is absolutely no one more red, white and blue than us.”
Mr Picardo joined several prominent Remain speakers on the stage, including UK Government aide Huw Merriman, who defied whips by addressing the People’s Vote event to explain that he now supports a second referendum because “Parliament has failed”.
The Tory MP told an audience in London that it was “seriously wrong” that his job as parliamentary private secretary to Chancellor Philip Hammond was under threat by speaking at the event in London on Tuesday.
“So be it,” he said ahead of Wednesday’s EU summit to decide if the UK leaves with no deal.
Branding himself a “serial loser when it comes to Brexit”, he told the supportive crowd that he had backed Theresa May’s deal three times, voted to keep no deal on the table twice and against an extension to Article 50.
But the MP for Bexhill and Battle supported a confirmatory referendum on the agreement in last week’s indicative votes in the Commons.
“Parliament has failed. Parliament cannot make its mind up. There is no majority in Parliament for any one thing,” he said.
“So if I’m true to that view that I want to deliver what the majority voted for the last time then that leads me here to a confirmatory vote.
“It’s time now to bump this over the line, ask the people to do the job that Parliament should do but can’t and bring on a People’s Vote.”
He said he voted to Remain but now supports delivering the result of the referendum and would continue to do so if a fresh vote was granted.
Anna Soubry, one of the Remainer MPs who defected from the Tories to join the Independent Group, told the event that it was a “pitiful state” that Mr Merriman had apparently been warned against speaking.
He had been visibly upset last week when Conservative colleague Nick Boles quit the party over its refusal to back his Common Market 2.0 alternative Brexit deal.
He reached over to Mr Boles and warned him not to go, but now Mr Merriman now says his career in the party is at risk.
At the Westminster event, Mr Merriman was joined by colleagues including ex-universities minister Sam Gyimah and former attorney general Dominic Grieve.
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable addressed the crowds, as did Ian Blackford and Liz Saville Roberts, respectively the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru leaders in Westminster.