Wednesday 9 January 2019 - People's Vote

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Morning Briefing: How to get a People's Vote - 'no deal' defeat - Scarlett Johansson on a unicorn

MPs defeated the government last night to make clear they won’t countenance crashing out of the EU with no deal at all (see below). They are likely to reject the government’s deal next week. The route will then open up to a People’s Vote.

But how exactly will we get a new referendum? That’s the question answered in an updated report, A Roadmap to a People’s Vote, published by the People’s Vote campaign this morning.

The central message is that the time for fantasy is over. So is the time for dither and delay. MPs need to deal in realities - and need to do so fast. Too much time has already been wasted by Brexiters’ purported sightings of unicorns and the prime minister’s habit of kicking the can.

Next week’s “meaningful vote” on the deal needs to be simple. This is not the time for amendments calling for a People’s Vote because the Labour Party is unfortunately not yet ready to back one, despite three-quarters of its voters supporting a new referendum.

It will only make sense to bring such an amendment when Jeremy Corbyn has gone through the process set out at Labour’s conference last year: defeat the deal, try to get an election and then campaign for what will by then be the only realistic option left - a People’s Vote.


The Labour leader mustn’t waste more time. If MPs reject the deal next week, he should immediately ask for a vote of no confidence in the government to check whether he can force an election, something the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, this morning said should be done “immediately after” the meaningful vote. This will almost certainly fail.

After the meaningful vote, the government may advocate a series of “indicative votes” by MPs on other forms of Brexit. This would waste yet more valuable time, according to the report. The only deal on the table is the government’s miserable one. If MPs don’t want it and don’t want to crash out either, the only real option is a People’s Vote.

The best chance to bring matters to a head will probably be when the government is required by law to produce its Plan B within 21 days - or possibly earlier if a push today by MPs to accelerate the timetable succeeds.

Because of all the time-wasting, our departure from the EU, scheduled for March 29, will need to be delayed to hold a People’s Vote. Fortunately, the other countries will let us extend the Article 50 timetable to do so. However, they are not keen to stop the clock for yet more negotiations. So calling for extra time unless the purpose is to hold a People’s Vote is another fantasy, as I made clear in this column for InFacts.

The parliamentary battle to get a new referendum is far from over. But the route to one is opening up.

Audio of the Day

LISTENBashir Ibrahim says the attack on Anna Soubry outside of Parliament shows "we live in a bitterly divided country". A People’s Vote can help bridge this divide.

‘No deal’ defeat could be early step to People’s Vote

While Yvette Cooper’s successful amendment last night does not stop “no deal” in its tracks, it does expose the threat of no deal as an empty one.

It also sets the mood music for the vote on the government’s Brexit deal expected next Tuesday. Seeing loyal Conservatives like Oliver Letwin oppose the government on a finance bill should embolden other potential rebels, likely resulting in a significant defeat for the prime minister.

It has also brought together a disparate group of rebel MPs who might in future unite behind a People’s Vote. This includes advocates of the so-called “Norway model”. The leading proponent of “Norway”, Nick Boles, told The Times he would vote for anything that ensured the UK either leaves the EU “with a deal or not at all”.

The threat of a no deal Brexit has been cynically used by the government for many months as part of their campaign to bully and intimidate Parliament into voting for a bad deal that would leave us worse off and offers less control. This appears to have backfired spectacularly, forcing even Tory loyalists to face down Number 10’s reckless tactics.

Quote of the Day

“The majority tonight that is expressed in this house will sustain itself. We will not allow a no-deal exit to occur at the end of March.”

Oliver Letwin in a Commons speech where he also pointed to the fact he had almost never rebelled against his party before

Tweet of the Day

And there it is, confirmation from the House of Commons Twitter feed that Theresa May has become the first prime minister to be defeated on a finance bill in over 40 years.  

3 ways Labour is moving towards People’s Vote

There have been three important developments ahead of key meetings of Labour’s National Policy Forum which begin this month.

First, 10,000 Labour members and supporters have contacted the party’s policy forum demanding Labour votes down the government’s deal and backs a People’s Vote on Brexit.

Second, Labour for a People’s Vote’s CLP motion will now be debated in over 100 constituency Labour parties during January. Organisers expect that a significant number of constituency parties (who overwhelmingly support a new referendum and staying in the EU) will pass the motion, which calls for Labour members to be given a say over the party’s Brexit policy.

Finally, grassroots activists were this week also joined by a range of senior Labour figures on the Left, many of whom have worked with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for decades. Ann Pettifor, Manuel Cortes, Laurie Macfarlane, Mike Buckley and Zoe Williams have set up the Left EU Strategy and Policy Commission, which will set out a clear remain and reform agenda for the Labour Party to adopt in any new referendum campaign.

Video of the Day

WATCH: OFOC's Lara Spirit on Sky News: "You've seen promises that can't be kept because the problem is with Brexit itself."



‘Scarlett Johansson on a unicorn’

In yesterday’s cabinet meeting, as The Times reports, Michael Gove compared MPs opposing the government’s deal to “mid-fifties swingers waiting for Scarlett Johansson to turn up”. “Or Pierce Brosnan,” added Amber Rudd. David Gauke then said Labour were “waiting for Scarlett… on a unicorn.”

However, amidst all the Hollywood name-dropping, an interesting comment from the prime minister also emerged. One cabinet minister said May argued that “the Tories stood on a manifesto promise on Brexit that has to be respected: this included leaving the customs union.” This suggests the prime minister is already ruling out soft-Brexit options like the “Norway model” should her deal be defeated. She seems to be standing by her assertion that the alternatives really are “no deal or no Brexit”. If that’s the case, a People’s Vote - with an option to staying in the EU - is the only way forward.

Video of the Day 2

A post-Brexit trade deal with the US would mean accepting American safety standards. EU legislation currently bans 1328 hazardous chemicals from our cosmetics. The US bans only 11. Nobody voted for carcinogenic cosmetics.


More Brexit news…

EU to Theresa May: No more help before Brexit vote (Politico)

Ferry company will not be ready for Brexit, says government (FT £)

Speaker urges police to tackle MP harassment (BBC)

Dutch government assures residency of UK citizens in event of no Brexit deal (Guardian)

A lot of people are angry': Bristol West locals say Labour not listening over Brexit (Guardian)

Top Brexit comment

Caroline Criado Perez: Carcinogens in your cosmetics? Welcome to Brexit Britain (Guardian)

Jonathan Powell: It’s time for May to pull the emergency brake and extend article 50 (Guardian)

Editorial: The government has failed – it’s time to go back to the people (Guardian)

Looking forward…

Today, Wednesday 9th January


Day 1 of debate on government's Brexit deal


ONS: UK productivity (Jul-Sep 2018)


Dexeu minister Chris Heaton-Harris evidence to Brexit committee


Fisheries Bill expert evidence to Scottish Affairs committee


Expert evidence to International Trade committee on trade with Australia and New Zealand

Today, Tuesday 8th January


Day 2 of debate on government's Brexit deal