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Brexit: Young people 'will neither forget nor forgive' Leave campaigners, warns John Major

'It is the first time in our long history that any British government has embraced a policy of self-harm, despite their own advisers warning that it will make our nation weaker – and our people poorer'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 07 February 2019 13:15 GMT
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John Major: British people have 'every right' to reverse Brexit in second referendum

The young will “neither forget nor forgive” the politicians responsible for Brexit if they end up being its biggest victims, John Major has warned.

The former Conservative prime minister issued a chilling warning to his own party that it will be punished by a generation that “fear for their future” as the UK leaves the EU.

In a speech, Sir John echoed independent forecasts that Brexit will “deliver far worse times” and that “those who will suffer the most are those who have the least”.

“I can recall nothing to match this,” said the supporter of a Final Say referendum on the Brexit outcome, speaking in Newcastle.

“It is the first time in our long history that any British government has embraced a policy of self-harm, despite their own advisers warning that it will make our nation weaker – and our people poorer.”

Sir John added: “Over time, the young may prove to be the biggest losers.

“In advance of Brexit, they fear for their future. Post Brexit – if they turn out to be right – they may neither forget nor forgive those responsible.”

The prime minister from 1990 to 1997 also attacked the surge in food bank use under the Conservatives and its rejection of the need to cut relative – rather than absolute – poverty.

“Relative poverty – the invisible poverty that often bypasses social safety nets – is still a potent issue,” he said.

“It cannot be right that – in the fifth or sixth richest nation in the world – food banks have become essential in the lives of so many people.

“And poverty amid plenty – is corrosive. It alienates and breeds resentment. The human spirit can endure great hardship; but inequality gives it a bitter edge.”

The speech comes after Sir John became the first Conservative to call effectively for Brexit to be scrapped, saying the government should “revoke Article 50 with immediate effect”.

He also urged Theresa May to give her ministers free votes on all the Brexit options and relegate herself to being a “mediator” to solve the crisis.

The prime minister was urged to recognise that MPs had “killed” her deal and that attempts to revive it with minor “tinkering” – while sticking to her strict ‘red lines’ - were doomed to failure.

Sir John also highlighted how the government’s own forecasts suggested the North East’s economy would crash by 16 per cent under a no-deal Brexit.

“In recent decades – through no fault of its own – the North East has lost shipyards, coal mines and glass manufacturing,” he said.

“No government could – or would – stand by and watch that happen – but even the fear of it suggests that measures to protect the North East must be put in place – and quickly.”

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