Thursday 28 March 2019 - People's Vote

Thursday 28 March 2019

Morning Briefing: Confirmatory referendum wins highest MP support - May resignation concerns - customs union not the answer

No form of Brexit secured a majority in Parliament last night – and the proposal that won the most votes was not a plan for Brexit at all: instead Margaret Beckett’s motion called for a public vote on whatever Brexit Parliament opted for. What’s more, this idea of a confirmatory referendum won more support than May’s deal has ever reached.

Beckett’s motion got 268 votes. That compares to the 242 votes for the prime minister’s deal on March 12. The motion also won more votes than all forms of soft Brexit on the night, while the indicative vote process crushed all the harder forms of Brexit once again. While there is still no majority for a People’s Vote, last night showed widespread support which can now be built upon.

What yesterday's inconclusiveness did make clear was that any new way forward needs enough time to be properly negotiated and scrutinised. Westminster has had years to find a solution to this Brexit deadlock, and they continue to fail. It is only when MPs whittle down the options to a particular type of Brexit, and spend time exploring its faults, that the true level of support for a People's Vote will become clear. The strains and contradictions in the pro-Brexit coalition will be exposed, and a People’s Vote will be the only way to settle the debates.

It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.

Beckett's motion was actually a bit of an oddity last night. That's because a public vote is not a Brexit outcome in itself, it's a process which arrives at an outcome. MPs need to decide what Brexit options they can get behind first - a public vote comes after that. Last night was only the start of a long overdue process.

Despite no majority being found for any Brexit option, the indicative votes were a step forward for MPs on a path to confronting the painful choices that need to be made on Brexit. It is clear that securing a Brexit deal is far from “the easiest in human history”. Brexit will be an ugly compromise, and that means scrutiny is all the more important. Failing to do so will ensure that millions of voters will be disappointed, disillusioned or dismayed.

There is no Brexit that meets all the promises from the referendum, and none that don’t result in a cost to our economy and our sovereignty. And there are definitely none that will end the chaos and endless negotiations.

A People’s Vote – in the form of a confirmatory referendum or otherwise – is not an option in this crisis, it is the solution to this crisis. It will ensure that whatever option is finally arrived at, can be put back to the people to settle the debate and end the chaos in Parliament over what the “will of the people” really is.

Quote of the Day

"Consider the consequences for trust in politics if this House forces an outcome on the people that they no longer desire. That really would be the undemocratic establishment stitch-up of all time"

Margaret Beckett on case for public vote on Brexit deal

Video of the Day

WATCH: Margaret Beckett: It is the British people who should now decide what comes next.

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May’s resignation raises concerns

Adding to last night’s drama, Theresa May announced she will resign if she manages to get her deal through the House of Commons. Despite a few MPs, notably including Boris Johnson, saying this offer was enough for them to back the deal, any hope of it passing was quickly squashed by the DUP announcing they still could not back the deal while the backstop threatened the integrity of the UK.

That the government believes it can risk the future of the country in return for a Conservative leadership contest is an insult to the people. They are allowing their ambitions to overrule the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people. That they are willing to vote through a broken Brexit deal in order to create a vacancy at Number 10 is proof that Brexit has always been about putting Conservative party politics over the country. The prime minister’s position against a public vote seems hollow now that she is effectively offering one to the 100,000 Conservative party members in order to break the Brexit deadlock.

While it seems unlikely this move will work in May’s favour, it is clear more than ever why we need a People’s Vote. If May were to step down before the next stage of the negotiations she is all likely to be replaced by someone from the hard, anti-European right wing of her party. This makes the deal even more of a blindfold Brexit, with the risks even higher. A People’s Vote is the only way to ensure a handful of Conservatives don’t dictate the country’s future.

Tweet of the Day

Sky's Faisal Islam points to yet more hypocrisy over the prime minister's opposition to putting Brexit back to the people.


Clarke’s customs union very vague

The proposal yesterday with the smallest margin against was the plan tabled by Ken Clarke for the whole of the UK to join a new customs union with the EU. But this is not a fully fledged solution - all it asks for is “as a minimum” a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU. This “minimum” leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It also fails to overcome most of the issues causing the Brexit deadlock in Parliament. The plan doesn’t fully solve Irish border, as we would still need some elements of single market, for example shared standards on agriculture goods. It does nothing for services industries - which makes up 80% of the economy. It also kills dead the opportunity for any independent trade deals, which the Brexiters promised in 2016. That “minimum” is already looking very problematic.

Video of the Day 2

WATCH: Barry Gardiner is confused about Labour policy - the frontbench are clear that it will back a public vote on ANY Brexit deal.

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Westminster has let business down

While Parliament continues to not find a resolution to the Brexit impasse, businesses are continuing to face uncertainty. Brexit uncertainty is already doing "real world damage", warns Adam Marshall director general of the British Chambers of Commerce. He argues that businesses are “angry and frustrated” and that "three years going round in circles... is long enough." But any Brexit deal will only mean years more uncertainty. We have only negotiated our divorce agreement, we still need to spend years arguing over the future relationship with the EU. With a potential Tory leadership race on the cards, the uncertainty over what path Brexit will take only grows. Only staying in the EU can prevent this and give certainty to businesses. The most democratic way to do that is with a People’s Vote.

More Brexit news…

Scottish firms 'not prepared' for Brexit (BBC)

Back the Britons who want to remain, Donald Tusk tells MEPs (Times)

Bercow issues fresh warning over third vote on May's Brexit deal (Guardian)

Top Brexit comment

Caroline Criado-Perez: Brexit Is Distracting Us From The Gender Pay Gap (Grazia Daily)

Sonia Sodha: People’s vote is still alive after a day of Brexit drama falls flat (Guardian)

Quentin Peel: Tusk speaks for UK citizens’ rights, even if PM won’t (InFacts)

Looking forward…

Today, Thursday 28th March

- Theresa May in talks with DUP
- British Chambers of Commerce annual conference

Tomorrow, Friday 29th March

09.30 ONS: Balance of payments, business investment and GDP quarterly figures