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EU (WITHDRAWAL) BILL: WRITE TO YOUR MP!
07 Nov, 2017

Get your MP to call for a referendum on the terms of Brexit - a model letter written by Michael Romberg – a member of the Committee of London4Europe.

The House of Commons will now debate the Committee stage of what used to be known as “the Great Repeal Bill”. I urge you to write to your MP and other politicians to call for a referendum on the terms of Brexit with the option to Remain.

There is a lot else wrong with the Bill. On the whole, Opposition – and some Conservative – MPs are already addressing matters such as the excessive use of secondary legislation to by-pass Parliament and the lack of a time-tabled Parliamentary vote. All that is useful stuff. But it will not stop Brexit. Only another referendum has the political authority to do that. So far Labour has not dared to provide for one. So this model letter focuses on the call for a referendum on the terms of Brexit.

Write to MPs

It is worth writing to your MP and to other leading political figures. Most letters will be read only by a staffer. But a half-way efficient office should at least count them. So at the minimum your letter shows them that we are still here and that a failure to vote to provide for a chance to stop Brexit is not cost-free. You might even get a reply, especially from your own MP.

This comment piece includes a model letter. At the start is a core element for all Conservative and Labour MPs. Then there are short separate sections that you can add in for different sorts of MP (Labour, Conservative Leavers). At the end are useful addresses.

The model letter is aimed at MPs and has in mind a Remain-leaning Labour MP who nonetheless follows the Party’s Brexit line. So if you are writing to someone else you will need to adapt the draft.

The model letter is just a start. The more you can personalise it or just use it as an inspiration to write your own letter the better.

You can also find text in the letter for use with your local paper (they will want something much shorter – just a few sentences).

MODEL LETTER: CORE PARAGRAPHS

Dear

EU (WITHDRAWAL) BILL: REFERENDUM ON THE TERMS

I urge you to support amendments to the Bill that will provide for a referendum on the terms of Brexit before the final decision is made. A vote on an idea does not commit us to follow whatever plan is later produced. Having started with a referendum, only another referendum has the political authority to confirm or change course.

The Need for a Referendum on the Terms of Brexit

MPs will make an independent judgement on the merits of Brexit and of the Brexit deal when they vote on the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

They will also have to pay regard to the June 2016 referendum result – the major democratic event on Brexit in recent times. But referendum votes were cast without knowing what Brexit meant. Therefore the 2016 result will be a poor quality guide to MPs of what the public think at the end of the process. Even so it will not be possible for MPs to disregard it.

Nor did the 2017 election help. Both main parties promised the electorate that we would get the benefits of EU membership without the obligations. It would be surprising if the final withdrawal agreement matched those aspirations.

If we are not at the EU table, we are on the menu. The UK, with 2% of world GDP, has limited negotiating leverage with our major trading partner, the EU (22% of GDP). It should be no surprise that the only outcome of the ongoing negotiations will be a deal inferior to what we enjoy now as an EU member. The Government’s threat to walk away from the EU negotiations is not credible. Crashing out will hurt us far more than the EU.

So there should be a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain.

That is standard project management practice. No-one takes a project from idea to implementation without a review of the project once there is a definite plan whose benefits, costs and risks can be properly assessed. In the context of Brexit, that project review relates to the terms of Brexit agreed with the EU (or to a Brexit on no terms).

It would also align with the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. One of its lessons was the danger of making a final decision to go ahead without having studied an implementation plan.

Since we started the process with a referendum then as a matter of political legitimacy it must be for the electorate as a whole to say whether the project should go ahead or not once the terms are known.

It would place an unfair burden on MPs to ask them to choose whether Brexit should go ahead if they think the terms are not good for Britain but the 2016 referendum is still the electorate’s last word.

Opinion polls tell us that the country is still divided half and half on whether Brexit is a good idea. Similar proportions call for the Government to press on regardless and for a second vote on the final deal. Amongst those calling for a second vote a referendum is preferred 2:1 to a Parliamentary vote.

We can assume that the call for a rethink will rise substantially when the Brexit negotiations are ended and for the first time we know what Brexit actually means. While some Leave voters will be happy with the outcome, others will not wish to pay the price or will think that it is not the version of Brexit that they voted for.

MPs should now anticipate the demand for a rethink that will arise then. Otherwise, Parliament and its Members risk being behind the curve. It is up to Parliamentarians such as yourself to stand up for Britain and our future, ensuring we stand tall in the EU and the world, and not take us back to a less prosperous, isolated and more insecure past.

David Davis’ statement that the “meaningful Parliamentary vote” on the Brexit terms might take place only after we have left shows the bankruptcy of relying on Government assurances. The Government has consistently sidelined Parliament in its handling of Brexit. Theresa May’s insistence that the only options before Parliament will be to Leave on the agreed terms or on no terms show how far the Government uses the 2016 referendum result to narrow MPs’ freedom of manoeuvre. We need to schedule a referendum now into the nation’s political calendar and consciousness.

This is no time for party politics. No matter from what party the MPs who have put down the amendment calling for a referendum on the terms all MPs should unite to give the public the opportunity to change – or confirm – course before a final decision is taken.

The question in the referendum should be whether to leave the EU on the terms agreed by the Government (which might be no-terms), or whether to remain in the EU. Give the electorate the final say – let us take back control!

Yours sincerely

 

{Give your full name and street address so that the MP knows that you are/ are not a constituent. If you are a party member it is probably worth saying so.} 

MODEL LETTER: PARAGRAPHS FOR PARTICULAR MPs

Labour

For Labour, a further advantage to a referendum on the terms is that it would support party unity. As in 1975, it would allow the party to rise above its divisions and electoral concerns. The reason that using a referendum to overcome party problems has not worked for the Conservatives is that Brexit is still a live issue. The referendum on the terms should settle the question, as it did in 1975.

And it would be popular with Labour voters. Professor John Curtice’s analysis (Is Labour’s Brexit dilemma being misunderstood? 12 February 2017) has shown that even in Leave constituencies Labour supporters voted Remain. In opinion polls they are firm for wanting a further vote.

So the Party’s current pro-Brexit stance is opposed by Labour party supporters and voters.

Conservative/ DUP Leavers

Not much good will come of writing to actual Leave supporters. But we might have some fun by quoting back at them the phrase that underpins the Leave argument that there should have been a referendum before EU entry. The then Prime Minister Ted Heath had said that it would be wrong for Britain to enter the European Community without “the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the British people”.

At present, the Government risks taking us out of the EU without the full-hearted consent of the British people. That would of course have serious consequences not just for the country but also for any political party that supported Brexit against the wishes of the majority.  

Liberal Democrat/Green

A referendum on the terms is Liberal Democrat and Green party policy. So if you have a LD MP your letter can be much shorter, thanking the party for putting down amendments calling for a referendum. The key point is to urge the LDs to make their case in a non-partisan way so that MPs of other parties will support them.

USEFUL ADDRESSES

Find Your MP

Find the Address for A Peer

Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn
leader@labour.org.uk

Tom Watson - Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
tom.watson.mp@parliament.uk  

Keir Starmer - Shadow Brexit spokesman
keir.starmer.mp@parliament.uk  

Hilary Benn - Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee that is scrutinising Brexit
bennh@parliament.uk

Conservative – Some Prominent Opponents of a Hard Brexit

The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve  MP
dominic.grieve.mp@parliament.uk  

Anna Soubry MP
anna.soubry.mp@parliament.uk  

Nicky Morgan MP
nicky.morgan.mp@parliament.uk  

Ruth Davidson, a member of the Scottish Parliament and Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
Ruth.Davidson.msp@parliament.scot