'Back on the table'
Commenting on the EU's reported offer of a long extension to 31 October, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and author of the Taylor Review for Theresa May, said:
“When the idea of holding a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit hit the mainstream in January and February, the biggest criticism was the lack of sufficient time to conduct a proper process of deliberation.
“But the long extension now gives time to put this option back on the table.
“With the Hansard Society warning political trust is at an all-time low, and Parliament close to having exhausted its ability to find a compromise, we must use this time to reboot our democracy and to ease growing polarisation.
"Such a Citizens' Assembly could debate our future relationship with Europe to help inform further parliamentary discussion or even help frame a second referendum, should it decide one is needed.
“Deliberative democracy is a powerful and increasingly popular enhancement of representative democracy – for instance, Ireland used a Citizens’ Assembly to pave the way for its recent referendum on abortion – and at a time when all options appear divisive, citizen power could help develop a consensus on our next steps.”
Tim Hughes, director of public participation charity Involve, said:
“Citizens’ assemblies have a track record of bringing together people from all walks of life and of all shades of opinion to find common ground. As public patience with the current chaos wanes, it’s time for government and parliament to put people back at the heart of decision-making to help unite the country behind a solution.”
A ‘new deal’ for key workers — including a £500 thank you bonus, extended sick pay and paying the real living wage — is needed to reward them for their heroic efforts during the pandemic.