Tuesday 15 January 2019 - People's Vote

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Morning Briefing: 3 questions on PM's deal - no more delaying - Labour blames May

Today is the day that MPs finally get to vote on the government’s proposed Brexit deal. To mark the occasion, the People’s Vote campaign is challenging the prime minister to answer – to the House and the people – three key questions about her proposed deal.

  1. Is the deal she is proposing a better deal with the EU for the British economy than the deal we already have with the EU?
  2. Does the deal she is proposing fulfil all the promises made to the British people by the Leave campaign?
  3. Under her deal, in what year does she think that negotiations with the EU around Brexit will end?

If Theresa May were honest, she would say the answers to these questions are:

  1. No, the deal would make us poorer in the future than we would be if we stayed, while also making us a rule-taker with no voice in Brussels.
  2. No, of course it can’t keep the 2016 promises because those promises were contradictory. No form of Brexit can keep them.
  3. Who knows? This is just the first part of the Brexit agreement, and our future relationship remains incredibly vague. We’ll be thrashing that out for years to come, with Brexit uncertainty continuing to damage our country.


Of course, she won’t say any of that. In fact, the government’s lines for today have been leaked to the FT’s Jim Pickard, who has handily tweeted them out. They are full of fantasy.

For example, the leaked lines argue the government has “listened carefully to the concerns that MPs... and secured valuable new assurances from the EU”. And yet the DUP, whose 10 MPs prop up May’s minority government, have said that the reassurances from the EU published yesterday “bolsters our concerns” about the deal. Brexiter Tories were similarly nonplussed.

There is also much talk about the series of amendments to the “meaningful vote” motion that might get voted on today. The BBC has a handy guide here.

The government has already adopted some of the suggestions being tabled, in a desperate bid to avoid defeat, such as promising protections for workers and the environment or giving MPs a vote on whether to trigger the backstop or extend the transition period after 2020. Neither of these amount to much and seem to have convinced few politicians.

It would be better for pro-Europeans to have a clean shot at May’s deal, rather than muddy the waters by amending it. That is the simplest way to put it to bed and finally move on to the next stage of the Brexit process. It is now clear that the only forward is a People’s Vote - but the clock is ticking loudly, and MPs need to back it quickly after today’s vote.

Audio of the Day

LISTEN: Dominic Grieve on the Brexit deal: "It has become clearer in my mind that this is a disaster for Britain"  It’s time it got voted down and we had a People’s Vote.

No more delaying!

Theresa May might not yet be done with her Brexit delay tactics, according to The Sun. Angela Merkel has told her the EU could grant extra concessions if the deal is voted down, and the Irish PM Leo Varadkar might be persuaded to fix a date for the end of the backstop. But any plan for a second vote is likely to get short shrift from some ministers, such as Amber Rudd who will instead urge her to “reach across the House” to find a deal that carries Labour’s support.

Other scenarios could see MPs asserting their authority over the hamstrung executive. For example, a plot is underway from MPs backing the “Norway Plus” option to take “no deal” off the table entirely by forcing the prime minister to either extend or revoke Article 50 if ministers and MPs can’t decide on a way forward in the next six weeks. While the idea of Parliament taking back control is a good one, this plan is flawed - not least because of the huge damage revoking Article 50 without public consent might wreak on our democracy, as I’ve argued in more detail for InFacts here.

The only democratic way forward is now a People’s Vote, with an option to stay in the EU. MPs and ministers need to stop delaying and back it.

Tweet of the Day


You can read Guto Bebb's full comment here.

Will Labour use May to justify People’s Vote?

There are promising signs from Labour this morning, with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry saying that Theresa May will be to blame if her party ultimately end up backing a new referendum, reports The Times.

Before that, Labour’s policy is to seek a general election. Fortunately, that looks set to happen soon, with the Telegraph reporting a no confidence vote in the government will be tabled tomorrow if the deal is defeated.

But if, as seems likely, the Conservative party rallies around their leader, then backing a People’s Vote is no bad option. In fact, recent polling by YouGov shows Labour risks losing votes in its regional heartlands if it is seen to be facilitating Brexit: slipping from 55% in 2017 in the North East to just 39%; from 55% to 40% in the North West; and from 42% to 28% in the West Midlands. Meanwhile there is overwhelming support for a People’s Vote amongst Labour supporters - the leadership will ignore it at their peril.

Quote of the Day

“The prime minister must call an election... but if she refuses, if Labour’s no confidence motion fails and if we have to move to other options, including campaigning for a public vote, we will take no lectures from her about respecting our country’s democracy. Because she will be the one who has forced us into that position by ignoring every historical precedent on which that democracy is based.”

Emily Thornberry seems here to be lining up Labour’s argument for backing a People’s Vote some time in the future.

Video of the Day

WATCH: The former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd asks: "What is Government afraid of in a People's Vote?"


More Brexit news…

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq delays Caesarean for historic Brexit vote (ITV)

Majority of Welsh MPs to vote down EU deal (BBC)

Norway-style Brexit will not help the City, warns Lord Hill (FT £)

How Theresa May resorted to pleading, threats and dire warnings in last-ditch bid to save her Brexit deal (Telegraph)


WATCH: Jess Phillips MP tells Women for a People’s Vote her reason for supporting a vote: she thinks Brexit risks damaging Women’s rights.

Top Brexit comment

Jenna Norman: Theresa May’s Brexit deal will allow men to turn back the clock on gender equality (Inews)

Aditya Chakrabortty: For the sake of working people, the left must back remain (Guardian)

Daniel Laycock: I voted for Brexit but now, to protect my LGBT+ rights, I want a People’s Vote (Metro)

Looking forward…

Today, Tuesday 15th January

AM Cabinet meeting
PM Day 5 of debate on government's Brexit deal
10.15 Scottish Affairs committee: relationship between UK and Scottish Government
14.30 Health committee: expert evidence on budget and long-term plan
19.00 MPs 'meaningful vote' on government's Brexit deal

Tomorrow, Wednesday 16th January

09.30 ONS: House prices
09.30 ONS: Inflation statistics
10.15 Mark Carney evidence to Treasury committee
12.00 Prime Minister's Questions
14.30 David Davis evidence to EU Scrutiny committee