Monday 14 January 2019 - People's Vote

Monday 14 January 2019

Morning Briefing: May's last ditch attempt to save deal - Labour vote 'soon' - Parliament taking control

Tomorrow MPs will vote on the government’s Brexit deal. It is expected to be defeated. As Theresa May makes last ditch attempts to save her deal, today delivering a speech in Stoke-on-Trent, it is worth remembering why the deal is so loathed.

The deal doesn’t fulfil the promises made during the 2016 referendum. How could it, when those promises were contradictory? Instead it serves up the worst of both worlds. Not only will we be poorer than if we stay in the EU, but we will still follow many of the same EU rules that we do today but without a say on them in Brussels.

Meanwhile, our future relationship with our neighbours remains extremely vague - May’s deal will do little to stop Brexit infighting or end uncertainty. A comprehensive explanation of how the deal would do damage in different ways can be found in the People’s Vote campaign’s latest report.

With all that in mind, the prime minister’s insistence today that “we all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum” rings incredibly hollow because her proposal does no such thing. If anything, her efforts over the last two and a half years is proof that the Brexiter fantasies of 2016 cannot be fulfilled.


Having delayed this vote in December, May has failed to secure any changes to the terms of the deal from the EU. The 10 DUP politicians who prop up May’s government are still steadfastly opposed to the “backstop” proposal for the Irish border.

May’s scare tactic of threatening “no deal” chaos if her deal isn’t voted through has also crumbled in the face of parliamentary opposition. Today the line is that no deal is more likely than no Brexit. But despite this “risk” that Brexit won’t happen at all, Brexiters still loathe the deal. A dozen pro-Brexit former ministers have today urged their fellow travellers to vote down the deal.

If the deal is defeated tomorrow, the prime minister has until Monday to lay out her “Plan B”. Others will also put forward their own solution to the Brexit mess in coming days and weeks, but none has a majority in Parliament.

This is a pivotal moment for our politics. While her conclusion is flawed, the prime minister is at least right to flag the “catastrophic harm” a wrong decision now could have in the public’s faith in democracy. Her miserable deal which doesn’t keep the promises of 2016 would achieve that. So would the chaos of a “no deal” Brexit.

The only legitimate response to the act of democracy in 2016 is more democracy, now we know what Brexit actually looks like. A People’s Vote is the only way forward - and it is time MPs got behind it.

Audio of the Day

LISTEN: Liverpool football legend Jamie Carragher says that Brexit is a mess and that it’s time for a People’s Vote.

Labour’s vote of no confidence ‘going to be soon’

The most crucial group we need to get behind a People’s Vote in Parliament now is the Labour party. Polling shows the membership already overwhelmingly backs a new referendum. It’s Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership who are dragging their feet.

But the Labour leader's interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday provided some reassurance. Corbyn said that, if May’s deal is defeated, a vote of no confidence was “going to be soon”. While still emphasising Labour’s policy of trying to get a general election, he accepted that Labour must then explore “all options on the table including a popular vote, another referendum, if those earlier things fail”. Labour needs to move through these stages quickly in the coming weeks.

Tweet of the Day

Conservative peer John Deben is strong here on the government's poor arguments against a People's Vote.

Parliament taking control

Another important factor in the coming weeks is how much control Parliament has. The government cannot be allowed to delay and dither any longer, or try and run down the clock on Brexit and bounce May’s deal through with fears of a “no deal” crash out.

There have been two developments on this front. First, moves are afoot to take control of the Brexit process off the government by allowing backbench proposals to take precedence over government business, as reported by the Sunday Times.

Second, a cross-party group of politicians has drafted legislation to get a new referendum up and running. This could be crucial. With so little left on the Brexit clock, by the time MPs fall in behind the idea of a People’s Vote there will be a mad dash to get the technicalities down in writing. This draft legislation is an important start to that process.

Quote of the Day

“This Bill provides a legally credible way forward, and a politically credible way forward. With no majority in Parliament for the deal, or for ‘no deal’, the legislation provides the government with an escape hatch.”

Dominic Grieve on draft legislation calling for a People's Vote.

Video of the Day

WATCH: Only got a minute?  OFOC spokesman Femi explains the meaningful vote.

Extension… to what?

The final significant development is a reported willingness by the EU to grant the UK an extension to the Article 50 timetable if May’s deal is defeated. The length of the extension is uncertain. But the need for one is clear, and probably essential in the case of organising a People’s Vote. But we shouldn’t be tempted to put the cart before the horse. It is reassuring that EU officials are open to an extension, but there’s little point arranging one until we know what we want. Indeed, if the plan was just for more fruitless negotiating then the 27 other EU countries might not even agree. That’s why MPs need to back a People’s Vote quickly, then the UK can request an extension from the EU with a proper plan in place.

More Brexit news…

Hundreds buying 'Brexit Box' amid food supply fears (BBC)

Sadiq Khan demands plan to charge EU nationals to stay in UK changed (Guardian)

UK failed to enforce EU air quality standards – what will happen after Brexit? (Guardian)

EU urges states to detail airline ownership ahead of Brexit (FT £)

Top Brexit comment

Hugo Dixon: The case for a new referendum (Economist)

Jane Merrick: If you’re voting for something ‘with a heavy heart’, maybe it’s a bad idea (Times)

Sadiq Khan: If May stays at No 10, I’m starting Project Hope, the positive case for remain (Observer)

Looking forward…

Today, Monday 14th January

- Theresa May speech in Stoke-on-Trent
- Day 4 of debate on government's Brexit deal
- Lords 'meaningful vote' on government's Brexit deal
17.00 #FinalSay event on new referendum campaign (London)

Tomorrow, Tuesday 15th January

- Day 5 of debate on government's Brexit deal
10.15 Scottish Affairs committee: relationship between UK and Scottish Government
- MPs 'meaningful vote' on government's Brexit deal
14.30 Health committee: expert evidence on budget and long-term plan