Mike Vickers' Blog

March 1, 2019

Towards a 2nd Vote

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, Politics — derryvickers @ 11:03 am

Paul Waugh in today’s HuffPost

If you want to know the latest on Brexit you should sign up to Paul Waugh.

 Anyway here is his latest and you can then while away many happy hours through the links open to you.

Those pushing Labour to back a second Brexit referendum are still divided on whether they think Jeremy Corbyn’s conversion is real or a mere party management tactic. Last night, shadow cabinet minister Barry Gardiner told Question Time of his doubts about a People’s Vote: “I’ve always been clear that I think it is divisive, I think it does undermine trust, but I now believe it is the only way that we have to stop no deal.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, yet it’s a candid admission of just why many Corbyn supporters have been wary. 

The next step in the tortuous process of Labour’s party conference policy on Brexit is to back a second referendum in Parliament. Yet the wording of any amendment, and its timing, is crucial to its success. The Guardian has an excellent story on backbencher Peter Kyle’s latest formulation, stressing that MPs would be ‘withholding support’ for May’s legislation unless the public was given a confirmatory vote. This is an attempt to meet the leadership’s objection that Labour can never back May’s deal itself, while somehow allowing the public a final say. “This ticks every single box and is the only credible proposal on the table right now,” Kyle tells the paper.

The problem is that such wording may not tick every single box. If the amendment really does withhold support from May’s legislation, then it kills her deal. If it approves her deal while expressing objections, would that be enough for Corbyn? I’m told a rival plan is for the party to change the order of business so that MPs get to vote first on May’s deal and then retain the right to amend it immediately afterwards. Labour would whip an abstension on the May plan (which would delight  No.10 as it guarantees its passage even with Tory Brexiteer opposition), then whip for an amendment subjecting it to a public vote. It’s the age-old question of putting carts before horses, and it ain’t easy.

The other box that isn’t ticked is on timing. If this is all pushed by or before March 12, it looks too  soon for many Labour MPs who are still ready to back a second referendum. Some think that if the plan is tried, and fails, the chances of a public vote will be killed off for good. And they fear that’s the ultra cynical intention of the leadership. They would prefer Parliament to reject May’s plan, delay Brexit formally, then be left with a referendum as that famous ‘last resort’. The danger for Peoples Voters then is that a ‘Common Market 2.0’, which has a more natural majority across both parties, could well become the most attractive option. The Independent Group (with new ‘spokesman’ Chuka Umunna) may say more at its press conference today.

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