Analysis

Vote for pro-European parties and candidates tomorrow

by Hugo Dixon | 02.05.2018

Tomorrow’s local elections may be the last time Brits can say what they think about Brexit. They are also the first time EU citizens living in Britain can do so.

The polls in around 150 councils in England, including all London boroughs, isn’t directly about Europe. But voters who care about Brexit can still make this a feature of the campaign. London is a key battleground because so many EU citizens live there.

But what should they do? Almost all Tories say Brexit is a done deal. That’s Labour’s official policy too.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens are fighting for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. If voters don’t like what Theresa May negotiates – and it looks like it will be miserable – they should have the option to stay in the EU. The snag is that, in much of the country, Lib Dems and Greens aren’t likely to win.

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But don’t despair. The public can make their votes count tomorrow by only backing pro-European parties or candidates from other parties who are explicitly pro-European. It is a matter for debate how high the bar should be set, but a reasonable yardstick would be whether the candidate has either spoken out in favour of a people’s vote or against Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn so far doesn’t want a people’s vote despite most of his party being keen on it. But John McDonnell, Labour’s treasury spokesperson, suggested to Bloomberg last month that its position isn’t set in stone. Pro-European Labour councillors could put pressure on the leadership to fall into line when the debate comes to a head at the party’s annual conference in September.

Although there’s not much chance that the Conservatives will embrace a people’s vote, some brave politicians such as Anna Soubry have done so. The election of pro-European Tory councillors could give more MPs the courage to stick their heads above the parapets.

Where neither the Tory nor Labour candidate is explicitly pro-European, the electorate should back candidates or parties who are – ideally the ones with the best chances of winning. That’s the best way to send a message to Westminster.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe