Leaders and senior political figures from six parties today issue a triple challenge – to Labour, the Government and the European Union – to recognise that a People’s Vote is the only real way forward in the growing Brexit crisis.
At a People’s Vote campaign press conference in Westminster, the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford MP and Plaid Cymru Westminster Group Leader Liz Saville Roberts MP, will be joined by Dame Margaret Beckett, the Labour MP and former Foreign Secretary, and Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP and former Business Minister.
The challenge to Labour:
Sir Vince, Ms Lucas, Mr Blackford and Ms Saville Roberts will say they have written to Jeremy Corbyn ahead of today’s Shadow Cabinet meeting asking that the Labour Party joins them in moving a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
At a time when this Government does not have a majority in the House and has lost control of the single most important issue to face the Commons for a generation, there is an overwhelming case to test to the confidence of MPs and to do so now, before more valuable time is wasted.
Recognising Labour’s policy is to seek a General Election as early as possible, the letter calls on Labour to move a vote of no confidence. If it cannot succeed in that objective, it urges Mr Corbyn to work with other parties in Westminster to fulfil the demands – shared by the overwhelming majority of Labour voters and members - for a People’s Vote: now clearly the only way forward for the United Kingdom in this current crisis.
The MPs issue two further challenges on behalf of the campaign:
The challenge to the Government:
Theresa May, announcing her proposed deal on the steps of Downing Street, said that the alternatives were either “to leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all”. Yesterday, in the Commons she told MPs that they need to “face the fact that there will be a choice between a deal, no deal and no Brexit.”
We do not doubt that the Prime Minister has set her face against both. But, given her repeated suggestions that both are possible outcomes to this crisis, it would be the height of irresponsibility to prepare for one and not the other.
Amid this constitutional crisis, the Government should begin drawing up the necessary legislation and how Parliament can be given the time and space to properly debate and set the question, the rules, the franchise and the date of the vote.
The challenge to the European Union:
We share the view of the President of the EU Council who said yesterday that the there is no better deal that can be negotiated. Both this – and every other form of Brexit that might yet be proposed - will be damaging for the livelihoods, life chances and sovereignty of those we represent here in the UK. It will also, of course, be a grim prospect for our friends and allies across Europe.
Consulting the British people on these terms in a referendum is a process that cannot and should not be unduly rushed. While we hope that a decision by Parliament to deliver a People’s Vote and to put the necessary legislation in place will happen swiftly. But we recognise it will not be possible to hold the vote itself before the end of March.
Today, the People’s Vote campaign is calling on European leaders to allow for an extension of the Article 50 timetable to allow the United Kingdom to go through a democratic process as a sovereign nation that could culminate with a result that would be of a benefit to the entire family of European nations and its peoples. This matter is a matter that should be discussed by European leaders at this week’s Council Summit. And, in time, we would hope that were such a request be made to allow the necessary time for our democratic process to play out, it would be looked upon favourably by our allies in the European Union.
Opening the press conference, Dame Margaret Beckett MP, the former Foreign Secretary, is expected to say:
“We live in historic times and the responsibility upon all of us to act in our national interest weighs heavily.
“Yesterday, as the Prime Minister clouded her own proposal for leaving the European Union with yet more uncertainty, there was one shaft of clarity: the ruling from European Court of Justice that the United Kingdom can still decide, unilaterally, to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU on the same terms we now enjoy.
“Our fate remains in our own hands.
“In recent days, three of the most important actors in this drama have with varying degrees of intent, opened up the pathway to what now appears to be the only way forward.
“Today we are making a challenge to all three of them.
“To the Government, we are calling on ministers now to begin preparations for a People’s Vote including drafting the legislation for the public to be given the final say that the Prime Minister admits is a realistic outcome of this crisis.
“To the European Union, we are calling on it to begin discussions on Thursday to extend Article 50 so that our democratic process has the time and space it needs to explore the option - outlined by Mr Tusk - of the UK deciding to stay.
“And to Jeremy, we are asking that in the days ahead you think very hard about adding your signature to those of the other leaders here today, table a motion of no confidence so that, if you cannot get the General Election we want, you can campaign for the People’s Vote that Labour’s members and voters so desperately desire.”
Notes to Editors:
The full text of the letter to Jeremy Corbyn can be found below:
Today, the Shadow Cabinet is meeting at a time of constitutional and national crisis.
The Government’s inability to pass its Brexit deal through Parliament, as witnessed by Theresa May’s withdrawal of her own motion in Parliament yesterday, leaves no option for us as leaders of opposition parties but to call for a motion of no confidence to be put on the floor of the House of Commons.
Labour’s annual conference in September voted for a policy that commits your party to oppose a bad Brexit deal, seek a General Election and, if that does not succeed, campaign for a People’s Vote. Today is your opportunity to begin fulfilling that policy by joining the Westminster Parliamentary leaders of the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) and the Green Party in supporting a motion of no confidence in the Government.
We believe a motion of no confidence must be brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity, to ensure there is enough time to pursue another course. Therefore we want to emphasise again that you will have our full support if you put down a motion of no confidence.
Today, we ask that you, together with your Shadow Cabinet, agree as Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition to bring forward a motion with us to enable confidence in this government to be tested before it is too late and to put parliament back in charge of this process.
We intend to hold a joint press conference today at the IET in Central London where we will discuss this further.
Ian Blackford MP – Leader of the Scottish National Party (Westminster)
Liz Saville Roberts MP – Westminster Group Leader, Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party
Rt. Hon. Sir Vince Cable MP – Leader of the Liberal Democrats