Tuesday 10 September 2019 - People's Vote

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Morning Briefing: Chaotic scenes as shameful Parliament shutdown leaves undemocratic vacuum

And so Westminster “goes dark” as they say just down the road in theatreland, shut down for five weeks by a Prime Minister who is on a historic losing streak, six votes, six defeats.

Most would want to bring the curtain down on a run like that, but proroguing Parliament is Boris Johnson’s choice, not just because he is losing, but to stop all business, all questioning, blocking MPs from doing their democratic duty.

Who knows where we will be by October 14 when the politicians return, but we do know that Mr Johnson has so lost the trust of former colleagues and opponents that he can’t get the election he craved.

Mr Johnson and his No Deal allies say they want to take it to the people in a general election, but that won’t solve this long-term crisis. The only solution to the Brexit debacle is a People’s Vote.

Nobody trusts Boris Johnson when he says is trying to get a deal

Boris Johnson is finally talking the talk around trying to get a Brexit deal, with suggestions that he may be leaning towards proposing a Northern Ireland-only backstop tied to a “Canada Plus” free trade deal.

It is a proposal that Theresa May once claimed "no UK Prime Minister could ever accept" because of the potential impact it could have on the future of the Union, but has been dubbed Brexit In Name Only by the hardliners. Johnson called No Deal a “failure of statecraft” in Dublin yesterday, but, while a border down the Irish Sea means the hardest of hard Brexits, his biggest problem is that no-one trusts him anymore. 

MPs, the public, his brother and family members, European leaders: no-one trusts Johnson to do what he says, making the Prime Minister look increasingly desperate.

“Rebel Alliance” MP Oliver Letwin, who has always been pro-deal, this morning told the BBC’s Today programme that if MPs can’t agree one, then a People’s Vote is the only way forward. It is an important shift from an influential backbencher. He said that it "pretty clear" that there is a majority now in Parliament who would "vote for any reasonable deal, subject to a referendum". He said "it should be taken back to the people, why not get a deal in front of Parliament and take it to a referendum and let's see".

More and more members of Parliament and members of the public now recognise that this is the only way to solve the crisis. Trust the people with a People’s Vote, not Boris Johnson.

Chaotic scenes as shameful Parliament shutdown leaves undemocratic vacuum

A very long day at Parliament ended with protests in the early hours at the enforced shutdown, “an executive fiat” as outgoing Speaker John Bercow called it.

Opposition MPs chanted “Shame on you” and sang protest songs, amid scenes of chaos after Black Rod carried out the traditional prorogation ceremony. MPs tried to stop the Speaker leaving his chair.

It came after Mr Johnson lost his attempt to force a snap general election again, lost a motion from Dominic Grieve demanding the release of his aides’ WhatsApp messages and lost a Jeremy Corbyn demand for the government to obey the law.

Johnson shouted “let the people decide” as he called for an election, but a growing number of senior Conservatives are now acknowledging that the people should be given the chance to decide through a People's Vote. And yesterday, The Evening Standard, edited by former Chancellor George Osborne, called for a final say referendum in its leader column. 

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s “intolerant, inward-looking, xenophobic, isolationist government”, saying it is prepared to put the health of millions of Britons at risk with No Deal. Speaking at Gorbals Parish Church last night, he said: “nobody voted for this kind of No Deal Brexit. This Brexit is not the Brexit we were promised.”

His comments came after Mr Johnson travelled to Dublin to meet Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar, who warned him “there is no such thing as a clean break” if the UK leaves. “Rather, we just enter a new phase.”

Mr Johnson said No Deal would be “failure of statecraft”, but no new proposals were on offer to his Irish counterpart, who demanded alternatives that are “realistic ones, legally binding and workable.”

It remains to be seen what the UK government’s next steps will be during the undemocratic shutdown, but there is no mandate for a destructive No Deal.

Government bypassing law "could lead to mob rule"

With five weeks without direct parliamentary scrutiny, there have been dark hints from the government that they could somehow ignore – or bypass - the law passed to block No Deal, which received Royal Assent yesterday.

In an extraordinarily blunt warning, the Criminal Bar Association said a government ignoring the law “would open the door to mob rule”, leading to anarchy.

Senior lawyers’ group chair Caroline Goodwin said: “How can a government on the one hand pledge to unleash a ‘reign of terror’ on criminals when its own leadership threatens to break the law? We cannot expect people not to rob, rape and murder when a government declares it may break the law. We cannot lay rape to the rule of law.”

It is incredible to think that a serving UK prime minister should receive such an admonishment over upholding the law.

Northern Ireland heads into recession as UK investment goes Dutch

The Northern Ireland economy has entered – or is entering – recession, according to a survey by the Ulster Bank yesterday. Amidst the deep concerns over the impact of Brexit, the region has been hit hard with a fall in output from the private sector in August.

With firms feeling more pessimistic than they have for three years and foreign customers reluctant to commit due to Brexit uncertainty, output fell for the sixth month in a row with a slowdown seen across all four sectors – manufacturing, construction, services and retail.

Northern Ireland fears came as the Office of National Statistics revealed there had been three months of stagnation in the UK economy before a slight increase of 0.3% in July, with concern remaining that recession is coming, particularly as they said the underlying picture for the services sector (80% of the UK economy) is looking fragile through 2019.

But the Brexit uncertainty is proving to be good news for our Dutch neighbours with record levels of investment from the UK into the Netherlands.

The Dutch statistics office yesterday said UK investments had jumped four-fold to £72 billion since 2016, while during the same period, Dutch investments in the UK fell from £44 billion to negative £9.9 billion. Almost 100 companies have already moved some business to the Netherlands with 325 more expressing an interest in relocating across the North Sea.

The long-term damage coming from a destructive Johnson Brexit becomes clearer by the day. No Deal must be blocked, but only a People’s Vote can resolve the crisis.

Scottish Labour leader backs People's Vote in Edinburgh tonight

The Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard last night called for a People's Vote at a rally in Edinburgh University Students' Association. He was joined by activists from For our Future's Sake and Our Future Our Choice. At the weekend, one of the biggest protests ever seen in Ely, Cambridgeshire, to call for a People's Vote.

On Friday, we will be holding a rally in Newport to support a People's Vote. Get your tickets here to give full-throated support and Let Us Be Heard.

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. 

Quote of the Day

“No-one can trust Boris Johnson to be honest on his plans and intentions over Brexit or anything else. Any doubt about this before he became Prime Minister, has been removed by his behaviour since he entered Downing Street.

“Johnson now has a further problem, that this distrust of him is destroying his strategy. All his plans to thwart Parliament, escape accountability and force an undemocratic No Deal on the country are falling apart at the seams."

People's Vote campaigner Dominic Grieve MP outlines why a lack of trust in Boris Johnson is undermining his ability to get anything done.


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More Brexit news...

Gordon Brown brands UK government "intolerant and isolationist" and pledges to resist No Deal (The Scotsman)

North-East businessman explains that No Deal is political equivalent of self-harm (Northern Echo)

Leo Varadkar confronts Johnson with withering assessment of his Brexit strategy (Independent)

Scenes of chaos as Parliament is prorogued (HuffPost)

Johnson's plan for a deal? Amend the backstop (BBC News)

More Brexit comment...

Evening Standard comment: The Prime Minister is running out of options

Mujtaba Rahman: In Brussels, the goodwill towards Johnson is ebbing away (Guardian)