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Analysis

People’s Party backs People’s Vote. We’re almost there!

by Hugo Dixon | 25.02.2019

Labour’s support for a new referendum is a necessary condition to get one. But on its own it’s not quite enough. We now need to build the rest of the coalition – and, to do that, we’ll need to stay disciplined.

Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement this evening that “we are committed to… putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote” could prove a historic milestone in the struggle to stop Brexit. Some people thought the Labour leader would never get there. But he is now clearly following his party’s policy – defeat the government’s deal, try to get an election, push for Labour’s own Brexit vision and, if all else fails, ask the people what they want.

The party has already been through the first two stages of the policy. This evening Corbyn also announced that he would put Labour’s own Brexit scheme to MPs on Wednesday. Nobody thinks they will agree to it. That means by Thursday the “public vote” will be the only stage left.

Sceptics will say that Corbyn has only taken this step because he wants to stop other Labour MPs defecting to The Independent Group founded last week. Even if that’s true, his conversion to the cause is reason to celebrate.

Others will point out that we don’t know for sure many details, including when Labour will bring things to a head in Parliament or what question it thinks the public should answer. This is true. Until the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, there is scope for disappointment.

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That said, Labour will not support an amendment this week, a senior source told InFacts. That’s sensible, because the rest of the coalition hasn’t yet been assembled. We must not join battle until we have a majority in the Commons.

Labour is also supporting a “confirmatory” referendum, according to a briefing to MPs. This would be modelled on the so-called Kyle-Wilson amendment, named after two Labour backbenchers, which would ask the people whether they want to leave the EU with the prime minister’s deal. If they don’t, the UK would stay in the bloc.

One of Kyle-Wilson’s attractions is that it could help build the necessary coalition in the Commons. Some Labour MPs in “Leave” constituencies are reluctant to back a straightforward People’s Vote because they think it involves voting against Brexit. But if they support Kyle-Wilson, they can say they aren’t opposing Brexit.

Some Tory MPs may find this appealing too. They can say that, while they back the prime minister’s deal, there’s no majority for it in the Commons. Given that they don’t want to crash out with no deal at all, the only option is to put it to the people.

It will take a little time before all these stars align. But given the convulsions in the Tory party – with ministers threatening to resign this week if Theresa May doesn’t stop threatening to quit the EU with no deal – we may not have to wait long.

When the time is ripe, we must grab the opportunity and run with it.

The passage on Kyle-Wilson was updated shortly after publication in light of the briefing to Labour MPs

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “People’s Party backs People’s Vote. We’re almost there!”

  • As an innocent, non-UK, bystander, I am also relieved. Cannot but wonder how many minutes it will take before some ERG person insists the electoral commission to put “managed no-deal” on the ballot. Maybe even before there is a campaign to ask for clarification from Labour: “If you are against the deal, does it mean you are for remain?”. Labour will truly be off the fence and it will become a second referendum. Just thinking …

  • Of course one doesn’t wish to tempt fate, but the Labour party seems to be now making the right noises. However it would appear that Corbyn has had his arm very firmly twisted by the more enlightened and intelligent people in his party, to get to this position.
    It is obvious that he has ulterior motives – not least to keep his party together – therefore I hope that many people are not being taken in by this. Still it’s good progress.
    On the assumption that the UK really is about to avoid the ‘cliff edge’ this week in parliament the interesting question is about whether or not there really is political momentum to realign British politics? That for me would the the greatest success coming out of this miserable situation.
    Possibly politicians across all parties will forget that there is still work in progress.
    I hope that MP’s keep up the momentum because Brexit could easily mutate from a nightmare into pure hell.
    Just imagine May doesn’t achieve her goal in March? Would she announce an election immediately?
    It’s just feasible, and it would look very dangerous if the Tories were to win a majority. Stranger things have happened before.

  • I’m not Corbyn’s greatest fan, but credit where its due. He’s leaving it very late, but he’s showing more statesmanship in the national interest than May, who is still more concerned about satisfying the Rees Mogg headbangers.

  • People are claiming that a Public Vote is not respecting, or ‘overturning’ the 2016 referendum. I believe this is untrue and is being said by those who fear a different result. As a remain supporter I believe there is a high likelihood that far more of the public will share my view now compared to 2016. The democratic way to find out is to ask the public. It is true that the call for a public vote is mostly supported by those who wish to remain. But the call needs to have justification. Reasons are listed below.
    1. The 2016 referendum was called to resolve a Tory party conflict and not to resolve an important public issue.
    2. In 2016 many of the public knew little of the EU.
    3. In 2016 some of the claims supplied to the public were misleading or untrue.
    4. In 2016 the referendum campaigners did not follow expenses regulations.
    5. The 2016 referendum majority was lower than what would normally be considered sufficient to make such a momentous change.
    6. It is 32 months since the 2016 referendum and more information and evidence is available. Theresa May called a GE 25 months after the previous GE.
    7. In 2019 Parliament is unable to agree. But May as head of Government can offer her best deal to the public as a specific option. This compares favourably with 2016 when ‘Leave’ meant different things to different people.
    8. Polls show a majority for remaining, in conflict with the minority government’s intention.
    9. Running a Public Vote to confirm or reject the Government’s plan may be troublesome but cannot be called undemocratic. For many of the electorate remaining is such a simple and problem-solving option it obviously should be on the ballot paper.
    10. Threat of trouble from Brexit supporters is disgraceful and undemocratic. Leave supporters can vote for the Government deal if they wish, and anyone who regrets his vote in 2016 can indicate a change of mind. As a remain supporter and campaigner I believe that a second vote for leaving would be a sad but democratic event by a better-informed public and would be accepted by me and my remain friends.

  • Can’t help saying this: Corbyn to me is a pain in the proverbial of greater discomfort than even May. At least with May you could fairly accurately guess where she came from and what she would do. No good for a foreign national in this country but at least predictable as a lost case. Corbyn offered no succour whatever, the only thing he excelled in was sitting on the fence. A truly disgusting leader of the opposition.

  • The degree of commitment of Jeremy to actively whip ERG-like Brexiteers in his own party such as Kate Hoey, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer to vote for a Peoples Vote will be a litmus test on whether he is just using it as a ploy to stave off defections or to commit the party wholeheartedly to another vote. The Northern Ireland issue still remains a key issue. My article in the Irish Post of two weeks ago criticises Jeremy’s lack of support for the Good Friday Agreement by his ambiguity on a second vote…noting it was left to the SNP to highlight the linkage in Parliament