The University of Kent’s In Conversation series with Chancellor Gavin Esler returned on 20 September with Remainer and Labour peer Andrew Adonis at the Gulbenkian Theatre.
The former Transport Secretary and chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission is an outspoken critic of the Brexit process and has recently been campaigning to derail the entire process by calling for a second referendum on the terms of the withdrawal agreement
The event, titled ‘Brexit - can it be overturned?’, revolved around the growing need for a ‘people’s vote’, which both Adonis and Esler are strongly supportive of.
Lord Adonis felt that there is a need for a people’s vote because ‘young people in particular and students are becoming quite rightly deeply alarmed at what this may mean for their careers’.
Adonis has been busy visiting universities and institutions across the country, but it was this event that he concluded that if there were to be a second referendum, people under 35 would vote in large sways for remain.
Canterbury MP Rose Duffield was also in attendance of the talk, reinforcing her public support for a vote on the divorce bill.
Among the discussions of how a second referendum would be initiated, Adonis said that members of the public should be a given a physical copy of the exit agreement.
He said: ‘The government sent every elector a copy of the Good Friday agreement, what I think should happen is every elector should be sent a copy of Chequers.’
Arguments were put forward throughout the night against the idea of a second referendum, including how time is running out with the 29 March 2019 deadline only six months away.
Adamant in denying this claim, Adonis believed that the EU would extend the Article 50 deadline to allow the democratic processes to continue.
Another argument was the fear of divisions from the original vote in 2016 reappearing.
Esler responded sarcastically on the topic of a people’s vote: ‘Given that we’ve all come together as a nation... but it would somehow be divisive.’
With this, Adonis replied: ‘We’re a democracy, we have arguments in democracies.’
InQuire asked Lord Adonis ‘Given that the Bank of England reported that a no deal Brexit, could see house prices fall by a third, should young people want a no deal Brexit so they can get on the housing ladder?’
Adonis replied that economic security and integrity would lead to more affordable homes being built, but that the government would need to commit to building more social housing and bring their building homes plans forward.
The In Conversation series was launched in 2015, after Gavin Esler’s appointment as Chancellor of the University of Kent.
Former guests of the series include crime writer Ian Rankin OBE, comedian Jo Brand, and film critic Mark Kermode.