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Analysis

Labour takes big step towards People’s Vote

by Hugo Dixon | 24.09.2018

The People’s Vote glass is three-quarters full after Labour last night agreed the Brexit motion to be debated at its conference tomorrow. If delegates back the motion, Jeremy Corbyn may have little option but to support a new public vote when MPs vote on whatever comes out of Theresa May’s train-wreck Brexit talks.

Of course, Labour’s first preference is for a general election “should Parliament vote down a Tory deal or the talks end in no-deal”. Any self-respecting opposition party has to push for a vote of no confidence and an election if it defeats the government on its flagship policy. But the chance of getting such an election is slim. Some Conservative MPs are likely to vote against the prime minister’s Brexit policy and for a People’s Vote, but it’s unlikely any would join Labour in a vote of no-confidence against their own government.

The motion, which Labour conference will debate tomorrow, goes on to say: “If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.” It would have been better if this passage was clearer – saying that, if Labour can’t get an election, the party must campaign for a public vote rather than talking about “all options remaining on the table”.

But the wording still does the job as there won’t be any other good options apart from a People’s Vote. Labour is committed to fight against crashing out with no deal. And there won’t be time to go back and negotiate a completely new deal, as we are scheduled to quit the EU in six months. Although the other EU countries will give us more time if we want a new public vote, they won’t extend the timetable to go round and round in more circles on the negotiations.

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The Labour motion is also important for what it doesn’t say. An earlier draft said a People’s Vote would be “on the terms of Brexit”, implying that staying in the EU would not be an option on the ballot paper. That language was removed from the motion which conference will debate.

So, for all John McDonnell’s claims today that he wanted a People’s Vote to be about the terms of Brexit, that is not in the motion and was a battle won last night. What’s more, as he told the BBC, it is ultimately up to MPs to decide. In any case, this is the most positively we’ve heard the shadow chancellor talk about giving the public a say – and a clear positive for the People’s Vote campaign.

Labour has taken this important step because of mounting concern both in the public in general and among its members over where Brexit is heading. There was a big rally in Liverpool in support of a People’s Vote yesterday. This followed an opinion poll by YouGov for the People’s Vote campaign which showed 86% of the party’s members want the public to have the final say over Brexit.

There are still several steps before Labour’s journey is finished – including tomorrow’s important vote. But the party is probably on track to support a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “Labour takes big step towards People’s Vote”

  • I’m glad I read this gem of an article. I went to the March in Liverpool yesterday and it was a sizeable march and many pedestrians in the streets were obviously glad to see us. It was an enjoyable, though windy, afternoon. Then this morning, I wake up to John McDonnell telling everyone that the vote should be about the terms of departure only without an option to remain. I was furious and ready to tell Labour where to go. Then I read this gem:

    “So, for all John McDonnell’s claims today that he wanted a People’s Vote to be about the terms of Brexit, that is not in the motion and was a battle won last night. What’s more, as he told the BBC, it is ultimately up to MPs to decide. In any case, this is the most positively we’ve heard the shadow chancellor talk about giving the public a say – and a clear positive for the People’s Vote campaign.”

    Thanks InFacts for stopping my head from exploding. =)

  • Good to see that Labour’s depressing sit-on-the-fence stance toward Brexit finally is being adjusted to the demands of reality. Shame they betrayed this issue so many times in the past years; it would never have got this far toward crisis if they had seen the light a mite earlier.