Where are we now on Brexit, a new referendum, and the European elections?

Brexit is turning out to be very different from what was promised by the Leave campaign three years ago, so it is justified to ask people to confirm whether they wish to proceed or not.

Not holding a referendum on the actual Brexit deal is tantamount to saying to the public “You had your say three years ago, so now you must shut up and accept whatever politicians come up with”.

Public opinion has not done what many people expected, namely to rally behind the result of the 2016 referendum (“we’ve debated it, we’ve voted, let’s get on with it”. Many expected 60% or more to be backing Brexit), but it’s shifted the other way – polls show a majority against Brexit. It would not be right to proceed with Brexit on the ground that this is the will of the people, without checking whether that’s still the case.

The Labour Party agreed unanimously at party conference that we should have the option of a public vote to settle this issue. Faced with a damaging job-destroying, rights-threatening, Tory Brexit, the overwhelming majority of party members want a public vote on any Brexit deal the government signs. Indeed, our frontbench in the Commons has voted for that.

In the European elections, if Labour were less than wholehearted in backing a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal that the Government signs, then it would risk haemorrhaging votes to the smaller anti-Brexit parties (Greens, LibDems, ChangeUK, SNP, Plaid Cymru). Not that this would necessarily be enough for them to gain seats (in most regions, they’d not quite reach the threshold for a seat, so these would be wasted votes in terms of winning seats), but it could siphon enough votes off Labour to cause it to fall behind Farage’s Brexit party, giving them seats they would otherwise not have won.

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9 Comments

  1. I have sent the following email to every NEC member although I do not know what good it will do.

    Dear friends and comrades

    On Tuesday you gather at party headquarters for what is probably the most important NEC meeting that many of you will ever have. The decisions you make at that meeting will determine in part labours electoral chances going forward. If we are to have European parliamentary elections then there must be a unequivocal commitment to a confirmatory referendum regardless of what deal and whose deal is on the table. We all know in our hearts that brexit will bring about significant economic damage to our country, but more than that it will affect the livelihoods of millions of our fellow citizens in the years ahead. To my friends in the trade union movement these fellow citizens are your members I would like you to remember that. To those who represent the membership of the Labour Party on the national executive committee whether they be members of the Parliamentary Labour Party or representatives of Constituency Labour Parties your duty is clear and that is to honour the policy decision as articulated in the 2018 conference. Failure to do so would be considered a rank betrayal of the rank and file of the party. It is likely that members of the party may cast their votes elsewhere and you cannot assume that the old party loyalties will remain in situ. There is only one thing you can and that is to give unequivocal support for a confirmation referendum. The time for vacillation, equivocation is over. I trust you to do the honorable thing.

    Comradely yours

    Labour and Co-operative member

  2. “Polls show a majority against Brexit”, which polls are these and where were they held? Of the people I speak with most oppose a 2nd referendum. Leavers still want to leave and the remainers want to see our democracy upheld!!

    • Les Britanniques sont si mal traités que ça, dans l’Union européenne ?
      Brits are so badly treated in the European Union, are they?

  3. If the election leaflet plays down the need for a public vote I will be voting Green, I would rather waste a vote than give it to Labour with a leader intent on helping get a Tory Brexit. What Corbyn is doing in terms of Labour support is alienating the many to pander to the few.

  4. Richard – You’ve captured the mood of the Party. I cannot vote for a BREXIT supporting party (even ours) , as that underpins our whole Socialist and Internationalist agenda. Yes Labour should try to secure a ‘Labour BREXIT’ – but whatever the outcome it must be subject to a Confirmatory Vote to be legitimate – and that must include a ‘Labour BREXIT’ with REMAIN & No Deal LEAVE as options. If that is not in our EU Manifesto I will be voting Green

  5. Richard, I am not a Labour member, so will confine myself to non-Labour comments: I hear over and over from politicians of all sides that ‘we must respect the result of the referendum’. To which I reply: why? When both Leave campaigns openly admit to overspending, to curating adverts to their ‘target market’ (I never got any) to *buying* votes, possibly with foreign funding, to lying about the NHS, to using emotive terms like ‘control’ and ‘sovereignty’, to using blatantly racist posters and finally, to harnessing the grim forces of the racist hacks of the Daily Mail and its sister papers. If Brexit was a house, you’d never buy it. If it was a car, you’d want your money back. If it was a pet, you’d have it put down for anti-social behaviour. ANY politician who *thinks* Brexit was legal, decent and honest seriously needs to consider their position. Which isn’t good.

  6. Richard,
    Is today’s decision to support a new referendum “conditionally” enough to keep labour supporters on board?

  7. Recently David Milliband said that the Brexit people voted for is not the Brexit they’re going to get. I totally agree with him. A voice of reason amidst the clamour of prejudice.
    My wife and I ( both in our 70’s ) voted to remain. We have children and grandchildren so we voted for their future. To leave the EU will blight the future job prospects of the younger generations. Let’s not waste their talents on the bonfires of prejudice and nationalism.

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