Morning Briefing: Business and lawyers make case for People's Vote - all Labour, battleground and Scottish seats want People's Vote
It’s still not clear whether the prime minister will clinch a Brexit deal and ram it through her Cabinet. Stories at the weekend that a deal was imminent have been followed by stories today that the talks remain stalled on the so-called Irish backstop, the chances of an agreement are 50/50, and the Cabinet won’t be presented with a fait accompli tomorrow after all.
What is clear is that the deal Theresa May is concocting would be miserable. In fact, it won’t be a trade pact at all. It will be a half-baked deal that merely specifies our divorce terms, costs us at least £50 billion and probably a lot more, and ties us up in knots because of the commitments we will have to make to keep the Irish border open.
No wonder over 70 business leaders - including Martha Lane Fox (founder of Lastminute.com), John Neill (Unipart’s boss) and Paul Myners (former chair of Marks and Spencer) - called at the weekend for a People’s Vote.
In an open letter, they wrote that the “uncertainty over the past two years has already led to a slump in investment, which will make our country poorer” and that the Brexit now on offer will “further depress investment” and this will be “bad for business and bad for working people.” As if on cue, business confidence slumped to the lowest point since the credit crunch according to figures out today.
For business, the key problems are that the political declaration about our future trading relationship with the EU won’t give us good access to our biggest market, won’t be legally binding and will be ambiguous. It will be written in “disappearing ink”, one Cabinet source told the Sunday Times.
The divorce agreement will keep the UK in the EU’s single market and customs union for 21 months after we quit the bloc - without a vote on the rules. But no business can make long-term investments on the basis of only 21 months of certainty.
As of April 1 next year – yes, the first working day after we are supposed to leave the EU is April Fools’ Day – firms will be staring at a bewildering array of further cliff edges, possible extensions to the transition, Irish “backstops” and “backstops to backstops”. The rules under which business operates could change more than once – and we’ll no longer have any say over them.
There will be no clarity at all about the final destination – except that it will be worse than our current deal in the EU. Meanwhile, the different parliamentary factions will continue to fight over who should be in charge and where the country should be going. The real trade negotiations will drag on for years, probably at least five.
Business for a People’s Vote will be launched on Thursday with a panel discussion of business leaders who will talk through why they think such a “blindfold Brexit” will be bad for business and jobs and why a People's Vote is the best option.
Video of the Day
Lawyers for a People’s Vote
More than 1,500 lawyers have backed a People’s Vote, in a letter to Theresa May (published here in the Guardian). They write that a “People’s Vote is the most credible and democratic way to ensure the legitimacy of a decision that will profoundly impact generations to come”.
The lawyers, who include Labour peer Helena Kennedy QC, former court of appeal judge Konrad Schiemann, and David Edward, a former judge at the court of justice of the European Communities, argue “democratic government is not frozen in time”. Just as parliamentary sovereignty means no parliament can bind the next one, the 2016 referendum on EU membership can’t bind us either. A People’s Vote, especially if public opinion has shifted, is therefore thoroughly democratic.
The lawyers - who are part of a new campaign group called Lawyers for a People’s Vote - also say voters are entitled to know what they are voting for. But in 2016 they faced a choice “between a known reality and an unknown alternative”. Once negotiations conclude, that won’t be the case. “Voters should then have a say on whether to exit on those terms – just as a home buyer may reconsider an offer after receiving the survey, and a patient must be informed of risks before consenting to surgery.”
Are you a lawyer who supports a People’s Vote but haven’t signed the letter yet? You still can here.
Video of the day 2
Voters in all Labour seats back People’s Vote
The public wants a People’s Vote in all 259 Labour-held seats, according to a a new polling study for the People’s Vote campaign. What’s more, Labour voters in those seats back a People’s Vote by an even bigger margin. The Labour seat with the biggest support for a People’s Vote - with 80% - was Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn’s seat.
And this is not all. Voters back a People’s Vote in all Labour’s 100 “battleground” seats. That’s not just a reason for the opposition to give voters the final say on Brexit. It’s a reason for Conservative MPs with small majority to back a People’s Vote too. The 67 with majorities under 5,000 are, without exception, in constituencies where there is a majority in favour of a People’s Vote - and the number of Conservative voters who back a People’s Vote is significantly bigger than their majority at the last election.
This analysis done by YouGov was based on polling of almost 26,000 people, the biggest poll of voters since the election. It is now clear: public opinion has shifted decisively in favour of a People’s Vote - and MPs would do well to take note.
Quote of the Day
“I’m backing the People’s Vote campaign because it’s the right thing to do for our national interest, as well as for businesses and families in Aberconwy. But it’s also really important that Conservatives like me listen to voters rather than just an ideologically-motivated rump of my party.”
Guto Bebb, the Conservative MP for the marginal seat of Aberconwy where 56% of voters overall back a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the day
All Scottish constituencies want a People’s Vote
Every constituency in Scotland also backs a People’s Vote, according to the same vast YouGov study. The poll found that almost two-thirds (64%) of Scottish voters now back the idea of the public being given the final say on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. And if they are given the chance to take part in a People’s Vote, 67% of Scots would vote to stay in the EU.
SNP voters are particularly strong supporters of a People’s Vote. The percentage varies from 81% in Glasgow North to 72% in Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk.
More Brexit news…
Matthew d’Ancona: Arron Banks aside, worry about dark money’s effect on our democracy (Guardian)
Tom McTague: The British and Irish are fighting again (Politico)
Daniel Boffey: Why Brexit is just a sideshow for an EU beset by problems on all sides (Observer)
Today, Monday 5th November
|-||US set to reimpose sanctions on Iran|
|15.30||Former chief whip evidence on status of resolutions of the House of Commons to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee|
|16.00||Border Planning Group co-chairs evidence on Brexit and UK border to Public Accounts Committee|
|16.30||Philip Hammond evidence to Treasury committee|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 6th November
|-||Information Commissioner releases report on referendum|
|-||US mid-term elections|
|PM||Parliament rises for recess (until November 12)|