Thought leadership

Working people must not be allowed to pay the price of leaving the EU, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said as the UK began to digest the implications of the historic referendum vote.

The senior Labour figure spoke out as the Leave campaign celebrated passing the votes total needed to confirm that the country had backed Brexit.

“People will be waking up this morning to turmoil in the markets and the pound crashing, and fearing the emergency budget the Chancellor threatened to hike their taxes and cut public services,” he said.

“The Government must now take steps to stabilise the economy, and to protect jobs, pensions and wages. Labour will not allow any instability to be paid for by the working people of this country.”

Pro-Remain Tories expressed a determination to make the best of the situation.

Among them was government minister Jo Johnson – brother of Brexit figurehead Boris – who said: “Big decision. Let’s make it work.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “People in Britain are angry and they’ve expressed that anger today by voting to leave the EU. “The most important task at hand now is unifying our divided communities. Our party will now mobilise alongside the Trade Unions, environmental groups and others to defend our hard-won rights at work and environmental protections.”

She said: “The prospect of shutting down the right to free movement is frightening, as are the consequences of a campaign that has at times pitted neighbours against one another, whipped up fear and allowed lies and myths to take the place of truth.

“Britain deserves better and I am pledging anew to fight against division on behalf of my constituents.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said he was “angry and heartbroken” and accused David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn of taking the country “over the edge”.

“This self-inflicted wound will be Cameron’s legacy,” he said.

“This is his failing. And when the call went out to Jeremy Corbyn, he refused to answer.

“Their self-interested political manoeuvring has taken our country to the brink, and we are toppling over the edge.

“The Prime Minister must now act quickly to steady the economy, reassure the markets, and immediately set a new course. If he cannot do this immediately, there is no possible way he can remain in office.”

He said Britain was clearly “a deeply divided country”.

“Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I share. Young people voted to remain by a considerable margin, but were outvoted. They were voting for their future, yet it has been taken from them.

“Even though the result was close, there is no doubt that the majority of British people want us to leave. Our fight for an open, optimistic, hopeful, diverse and tolerant Britain is needed now more than ever.

“Together we can still make the case for Britain’s future with Europe, as millions of people voted for it. Together we cannot afford to let that vision die.”

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