Monday 17 December 2018 - People's Vote

Monday 17 December 2018

Morning Briefing: People's Vote is most democratic option - 'very last minute' warning - no deal Cabinet splits

A People’s Vote is the most democratic way out of the Brexit quagmire. Brexiters are afraid that the people will give the thumbs down to their project, now that they can see how rotten it is.

Theresa May will today tell MPs that a People’s Vote would “break faith” with the public, do "irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics" and “further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it."

When the prime minister talks about breaking faith with the people and damaging the integrity of politics, doesn’t she realise that the breach of faith and lack of integrity started in 2016? And isn’t she aware that, despite her promise to be “straight” with the public, she has failed to fess up to the dismal choices the country now faces?

Even now, May is refusing to bring her miserable deal to Parliament - leading to fears that she wants to “run down the clock”, leaving MPs with no alternative to her deal apart from crashing out (see below). If that really is her plan, faith in politics will indeed be terribly damaged.


What we now need is what we should have had all along: an honest debate. Parliament must be given the opportunity to vote on the prime minister’s deal immediately. But the reality is that there is only one way forward. MPs should throw their support behind a People's Vote.

A new public vote would be different from the referendum in 2016 because we now know more about what Brexit means. There is no deal that can meet all the promises made for it - nor one that is as good as the deal we already have in the EU.

Any effort to force Brexit over the line without checking that it has the continued consent of the British people will only reinforce divisions and make sure this controversy lumbers on for many years to come.

In a People’s Vote, the public will have the chance to give their considered view on the reality of Brexit. Voting on fantasies is demagogy. Voting on realities is true democracy. If the campaign is also conducted with honesty and respect on all sides, it could play a big part in bringing our country together.

It is vital that leaders who care about the national interest begin preparations for a People’s Vote that can sort out the Brexit mess. It can give our politics the clarity it needs to move forward, and our country the opportunity to move on from the bitter divisions of the past three years.

Quote of the day

“It is highly significant that Downing Street felt it had to issue advance extracts of Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons on Sunday night, because officials know the prospect of a People’s Vote is being discussed, not just in Westminster, but in the corridors of Whitehall, too.

“The case for the public being given the final say is becoming so overwhelming that people from all parties, and of none, now recognise that this is the best way forward for our country.”

Margaret Beckett, Labour MP and former foreign minister, on the government’s reaction to growing support for a People’s Vote.

Video of the Day

WATCHTheresa May said there'd be no general election - and there was one. She then said there would be a meaningful vote on Brexit, and there wasn’t. She now says there won’t be a People's Vote...


Next step: MPs vote on all the options?

Ministers’ latest plan to break the Brexit deadlock is to hand the various options to Parliament so MPs can vote on each one, the Times and FT both report. Liam Fox told the BBC yesterday he had no problem with “parliament as a whole having a say on what the options were”. But this will only go so far in delivering clarity. Events up to this point suggest that all these votes would prove is that no option has a majority in Parliament - not the government’s deal, nor a Norway-style model, crashing out with “no deal”, or anything else. The decision must be handed back to the public to decide in a People’s Vote.

Tweet of the Day

With time running out, Chuka Umunna urges the Government to let MPs vote on the deal in order to move forward.

‘Very last minute’ not good enough

Jo Johnson, the former transport minister who resigned over the government’s Brexit deal, has warned of the danger that the government will leave a vote on its deal until the “very last minute”. That could mean little choice beyond either May’s miserable dela and crashing out with no deal. “It's simply unacceptable to run out the clock and face the country with the prospect of being timed-out,” Johnson told the BBC.

Labour have the best chance of pressuring May into action before Christmas. But they are being urged to move faster too, with the SNP pushing the official opposition to trigger a vote of no confidence in the government - something the Labour leadership doesn’t want to do unless it thinks it will win. Someone has to move soon. The longer Brexit uncertainty stretches on the more damage we’ll see to businesses, jobs and the British people.

Video of the Day 2

WATCH: It’s been a quiet week...  Luke Myer rounds it all up in the FFS Awards.

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Ministers prepared to quit over “no deal”

There is no majority for a chaotic “no deal” Brexit in the House of Commons. But it’s also facing fierce opposition in Cabinet, with at least five ministers dead against it, the Telegraph reports. Some, such as justice secretary David Gauke, have publicly said they are prepared to quit over the matter. This ministerial opposition is crucial as the idea of a “managed” no-deal Brexit is building in support, with 11 of the harder Brexiters in Cabinet reportedly backing it. But there is nothing desirable about "managing" crashing out of the EU. It's not even clear whether we could get the necessary agreements in place in time. And even if we could, our economy and jobs would be hit hard. The public should not have this chaos foisted upon them without having a say on stopping it.

More Brexit news…

Labour would fall behind Lib Dems if Corbyn backs May's deal, polls finds (Independent)

Brexit deadlock ‘is blocking off vital policy reforms’ (Observer)

'Brexit is a business bankrupter': small firms brace for no deal (Guardian)

UK universities told to speed up EU funding requests before Brexit (FT £)

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox 'said we'll remove Theresa May next year' (Telegraph)

Top Brexit comment

Matthew d’Ancona: A people’s vote on Brexit was a distant hope. Last week changed that (Guardian)

Justine Greening: MPs must vote on Brexit and be ready for a referendum (FT £)

David Hannay: May’s attack on Blair shows strain is taking its toll (InFacts)

Looking forward…

Today, Monday 17th December

- Inner Cabinet meeting
15.30 Theresa May statement to Commons on EU summit

Tomorrow, Tuesday 18th December

- Cabinet meeting to discuss no-deal preparations
- Labour MP Geraint Davies to present his EU (Revocation of  Notification of Withdrawal) ten minute rule bill