A nation divided: Frank Field MP on Brexit, British Ideas Corporation, 2016

A nation divided: Frank Field MP on Brexit, British Ideas Corporation, 2016

Two weeks on from the referendum and the dust is far from settling. Some people are a few friends lighter while others are feverishly posting messages about loopholes that might prevent the UK’s break from the EU. Facebook, once home to throwaway banter and pictures of slap-up breakfasts, has transformed into a political shooting alley. Leave voters tread with extreme caution on social media or have stopped using sites altogether. Right now, there seems no end to it, although the ever-reliable Billy Bragg made a valuable point on his Facebook page earlier this week, telling his 273,000 followers: “Though it may be painful for the Remainers, democracy must prevail. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Apart from a torrent of unfriending, it’s been a fascinating period for UK politics. Even those with little previous interest in the political landscape have pressed “record series” for Question Time and are acquainting themselves with MPs and their viewpoints for the first time since the ascendancy of Tony Blair. As the machinations of our departure begin, we speak to influential Brexiteer Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead since 1979 (and no stranger to David Dimbleby’s questions), about moving forward.

British Ideas Corporation: For people who voted Leave, can you give them assurances that they made the correct choice?
Frank Field: I always stressed there were risks in both staying and leaving. There’s no way this question can be answered until we see how skilful we are in negotiating a new arrangement with the EU.

Do you think there should be a second referendum, just to make sure?
On no account should there be a second referendum.

Remain voters on social media refer to the “lies” of the Leave campaign. Do you have a response for them?
I made a point of not using “facts”. I said the vote would come down to a gut feeling that people would have about where they thought their country should be best pointed for the future.

If we could plan for the non-existent Y2K bug in 1999/2000, why did the Government not plan for us leaving the EU?
We don’t know that the Government hasn’t undertaken some preliminary planning for a leave vote but you need to ask them that question, not me.

You stated on Question Time in the run up to the referendum that a “servant class” was forming. What’s the path forward for these people?
You’ll see from my website how I believe we should attempt to develop an investment- and skills-led boom.

There was a well-publicised march by pro-EU supporters last weekend but are these people ultimately wasting their time?
You talk of a march by pro-EU supporters. The turnout has been pathetic and yet the BBC gives them coverage as though the 200 or 300 people are equivalent to millions.

Can you remember a more fraught period in modern British history?
I don’t think it’s a fraught period at all. It’s immensely exciting that we can determine our future.

Do you have a stance on the current situation of the Labour party?
We need to a move to a position where we elect a leader in Parliament who takes us into an election and a leader in the country who organises the party as an election-effective machine.