Dear Conservative MPs, it’s time to back a public vote

by Nick Kent | 05.04.2019

Nick Kent, who has been a member of the Conservative Party for 37 years, writes an open letter to Tory MPs urging them to back a public vote on any Brexit decision.

Dear Conservative MP,

In the coming days you are going to have to make the most important decisions of your political career. If you get them wrong it could be catastrophic for our country, mean the end of your time as an MP and indeed, the end of the party too.  So there is a lot at stake.

You may think that Jeremy Corbyn will be mug enough to reach agreement with Theresa May and get her deal over the line. Really? Will a man who has spent a lifetime believing that the Tories are the class enemy, rescue a crisis-ridden Tory government from a problem of its own making? Most Labour MPs want a second referendum and won’t vote for a May-Corbyn stitch-up that excludes one in any case.

And even if Corbyn does reach some form of agreement with May, it will be for the kind of soft Brexit that your ERG colleagues viscerally oppose. Remember, to beat the backstop it has to involve not just a customs union but elements of the single market too.

So what happens when Corbyn and May either can’t agree or they haven’t got enough votes to get it through?  There are only three likely options at that stage: crashing out without a deal; revoking article 50 and abandoning Brexit; or holding a referendum.

Only the most fanatical Brexiters believe that crashing out makes sense. Don’t convince yourself that the public supports this, they don’t really. Or believe that the great public sector bureaucracies that botched the rollout of universal credit, screwed up the electrification of the railways and gave us the Windrush scandal are going to offer us a smooth, trouble free, no-deal Brexit. If you really think that, it’s probably time to give up politics and find something you’re better at.

What about revoking Article 50? It’s technically perfectly possible – the European Court confirmed that last December – and it would be better than crashing out. But that means no Brexit and that isn’t honouring the results of the 2016 referendum.  

I know that many of you don’t want another referendum. Many of you have accepted the line that it would be terribly divisive. Why should it be? Other countries have held new referendums on the same or similar issue and healed their divisions. The reality of a second referendum, which this time could be binding, is that whatever the result, neither of the main political parties would want to reopen the question again because it has been so internally divisive.

You may think that if you support a public vote you will be de-selected. But only a handful of Tory MPS have been de-selected since 1945 and usually because of a personal and not a political issue. As we have seen with previous party rows, like Margaret Thatcher’s removal in 1990, local Tories tend in the end to back their local MP.

The decisions you make next week will not be easy. The Union is at risk with May’s deal. Crashing out with no deal would cost the party its reputation for economic competence. Brexit alienates almost any voter under forty. A new vote is the least worst option. It could be the one thing that saves the country, your career and the party. It’s in your hands.

I wish you luck.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Dear Conservative MPs, it’s time to back a public vote”

  • Dear Nick , Thanks for being brave and using good old fashion common sense in a way that sets out the most obvious way out of this mess, It’s a pity that more MPs are not as intelligent as you. Ps. fancy swapping sides? Jim.

  • The result of the 2016 referendum has been respected.
    The government and many others have spent huge amounts of time and money in trying to find ways of not merely respecting it, but in seeking to find sensible ways of delivering it ; ways that do not cause huge damage to the people of the country’.
    And they have totally failed to do that.
    So having respected the referendum result and explored ways to deliver, the time has come to admit that they are unable to deliver what (they believe) the referendum asked for.
    Thus it is now time to go back and seek new “instructions “.
    Whether that is called a second or third referendum or a People’s Vote or a confirmatory vote is not important.

  • What a confused load of rubbish!

    MPs have taken over the process and it is now time for them to show some balls! Either go through with no deal or revoke article 50.

    The concept of putting it back to the people even though the first referendum has not been acted upon is utter cowardice. They now need to take responsibility for the mess they have created and decide one way or the other and then let the political process take its course.

  • First Peter Oborne admonishing Brexiteers to be sensible in The Daily Mail and now Nick Kent doing it with his Westminster colleagues! Will the sun finally shine again?