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MP makes case for a further EU referendum

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael believes there is a case for a fresh referendum to approve or reject the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The Liberal Democrat, who was firmly in the Remain camp along with 56.5 per cent of islanders who voted in the June poll, said people who voted for Brexit did so for “so many different reasons” – many of which were “contradictory”.

As a result, he believes that once issues such as the UK’s relationship with the single market, immigration and health service funding are determined in negotiations with Brussels, the people should be given a say on whether they accept the terms.

Carmichael acknowledged that this week debate had centred on Labour’s Hilary Benn questioning Prime Minister Theresa May about whether parliament will get a say on the final Brexit deal.

“If you’re going to have a say on the final deal, it shouldn’t be parliament – there should be a referendum,” he told Shetland News.

“Once you know whether we are going to have [an extra] £350 million a week for the NHS, once we know whether we are in the single market or out of it, or if we are going to pay for that access, immigration… People voted for so many different reasons to leave, a number of which are exclusive, contradictory, so it is just not possible that everybody gets what they voted for.

“In that case I think the sensible thing, and the way in which you bring the 52 and the 48 back together again, is to give the country an opportunity to pass their verdict on the deal.”

Six months on from June’s referendum, May’s government is “no clearer” about what its strategy is going to be and “what they are aiming to achieve”.

Carmichael sees a further referendum – already backed by former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair – as “an idea which may grow” in support.

In a local context, the expectations of what can be achieved for the fishing industry are “being ramped up pretty dramatically, so we will see whether they are in fact ultimately justified”.

In a tumultuous year for not only UK but also global politics, with the refugee crisis and the Syrian conflict showing no sign of abating, along with the unforeseen election of Donald Trump as US president, Carmichael said he would “hesitate to make any predictions for 2017”.

“I think we will probably see more churn politically on the world stage as 2017 unfolds,” he said. “You’ve got presidential elections in France, you’ve got parliamentary elections in Germany, and just about anything is possible in both these elections.

“Le Pen in France, and the hard right, is worrying; the standing of the AfD [Alternative for Germany] is also pretty concerning, and it’s pretty clear that the whole Brexit story still has a long way to go in the UK as well.”

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