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Analysis

This is how we can get a People’s Vote

by Hugo Dixon | 09.01.2019

MPs defeated the government last night to make clear they won’t countenance crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. They are likely to reject the government’s deal next week. The route will then open up to a People’s Vote.

But how exactly will we get a new referendum? That’s the question answered in an updated report, A Roadmap to a People’s Vote, published by the People’s Vote campaign this morning.

The central message is that the time for fantasy is over. So is the time for dither and delay. MPs need to deal in realities – and need to do so fast. Too much time has already been wasted by Brexiters’ purported sightings of unicorns and the prime minister’s habit of kicking the can.

Next week’s “meaningful vote” on the deal needs to be simple. This is not the time for amendments calling for a People’s Vote because the Labour Party is unfortunately not yet ready to back one, despite three-quarters of its voters supporting a new referendum.

It will only make sense to bring such an amendment when Jeremy Corbyn has gone through the process set out at Labour’s conference last year: defeat the deal, try to get an election and then campaign for other options including a People’s Vote.

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The Labour leader mustn’t waste more time. If MPs reject the deal next week, he should immediately ask for a vote of no confidence in the government to check whether he can force an election. He will almost certainly fail.

After the meaningful vote, the government may advocate a series of “indicative votes” by MPs on other forms of Brexit. This would waste yet more valuable time, according to the report. The only deal on the table is the government’s miserable one. If MPs don’t want it and don’t want to crash out either, the only real option is a People’s Vote.

Some say that even if MPs want a People’s Vote, they won’t be able to force the government to pass the necessary legislation. It would certainly be easier if the prime minister cooperated. But, as the report makes clear, MPs can if necessary exercise their will. Remember that last month they inflicted three defeats on the government in a single day – and, of course, defeated the government again last night and yet again today.

Because of all the time-wasting, our departure from the EU, scheduled for March 29, will need to be delayed to hold a People’s Vote. Fortunately, the other countries will let us extend the Article 50 timetable to do so. However, they are not keen to stop the clock for yet more negotiations. So calling for extra time unless the purpose is to hold a People’s Vote is another fantasy, as I made clear in this column for InFacts.

The parliamentary battle to get a new referendum is far from over. But the route to one is opening up.

This column was updated after MPs inflicted another defeat on the government on  Jan 9

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “This is how we can get a People’s Vote”

  • Hugo, I want a 2nd vote but where have the other EU member states made clear they will extend the article 50 deadline to hold one?

    An extension long enough to hold a vote would clash with European elections and probably the 1st sitting of parliament. The ECJ has ruled we would have a right to elect MEPs for the full 5 year term if we are a member and there is no legal way for a member state to, for example, suspend European elections.

    I’m highlighting this because I think there is some serious complacency among 2nd voters about it. I expect it to be a problem, and while the EU might be willing to help us find a way out, I don’t think we can simply assume they will.

    It’s going to be entirely in their gift and not ours.

    I’d be interested if you know or can link to something I don’t?

    Thank you.