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Remainers in the parties are fighting back
17 Aug, 2018

Both Labour and Conservative

London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg writes: the previous blog in this series looked at the Labour leadership’s stance. It is at odds with its membership. That membership is fighting back – as are the Conservative Remainers. This article looks at the organisations in the two largest parties that you can join to stop Brexit including by changing party policy. The next post in the series is an open letter to Keir Starmer.

In 2017 the Labour party conference did not discuss Brexit, as Momentum took the view that a debate – with an expected pro-Remain conclusion – would embarrass Jeremy Corbyn. For 2018 some Labour Remainers are trying to change the party’s stance.

Some in Momentum are seeking to have a petition sent to Momentum’s National Co-ordinating Group calling for a vote amongst Momentum’s members. Bizarrely the petition calls for a debate on “whether to oppose Tory Brexit” – everyone in Labour does that – the issue is whether to oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit. But more usefully the petition goes on to ask “whether to campaign for Labour to hold a vote at Annual Conference in September on giving the people the final say on the Brexit deal”. It is well on the way to securing the 4,000 votes needed to obtain a vote amongst all Momentum members.

Labour against Brexit (also identified as Labour4EU) and Remain-Labour are campaigning for Labour to come out for EU membership and to campaign on that platform in either a general election or a referendum on the terms. They are running a campaign for Labour Party members to put forward resolutions in their constituency parties calling for the national conference to support a referendum on the terms. Labour for a People’s Vote, led by several former Momentum figures, have also prepared a model motion calling on the Party to reaffirm its commitment to a People’s Vote.

Those imaginative and energetic young campaigners against Brexit, OFOC and FFS unveiled a banner at the Labour Live event calling on Jeremy Corbyn to stop backing Brexit. Corbynist hard liners derided the action as an anti-Labour stunt. But amongst the participants were Labour, Corbyn and Momentum supporters. The real message for the Labour leadership is that the young and students are opening their eyes to where Corbyn really stands on Brexit (in December 2017 over half thought Labour and Corbyn were for Remain) and not at all liking what they see. Labour will lose the youth vote on its present Brexit policies.

Conservatives should not feel left out

We tend to forget that around 30% of Conservative voters are Remain supporters (Survation March 2018) – although unlike with Labour supporters few are upset when the Conservative Party is described as a pro-Brexit party. The same poll showed that getting on for half of Conservative voters would support the Government proposing a referendum on the terms (though since a lot of Leave voters supported the idea there must be doubt what respondents thought the alternative was (Remain or Leave with no deal)).

The long-standing Conservative Group for Europe supports “the closest possible political, economic and security relationship with [the UK’s] friends, partners and allies in the European Union.”. Ken Clarke is the President and Dominic Grieve the Chair.

The new group Citizens for Britain / Tories against Brexit is seeking to mobilise Conservative and unaffiliated centre right voters. Its founding members include EM Chair Stephen Dorrell and London4Europe Vice-Chair Keith Best.

In the interests of political neutrality…

London4Europe is all-party and non-party. We do not comment on party political matters other than Brexit/ EU relations.

We therefore remind readers that the Liberal Democrats and Green Party are for Remain and a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain (People’s Vote). Links to the Liberal Democrat European Group and the Green Party

The People’s Vote is everyone’s solution

Not quite everyone’s. I find it easier to see lifetime Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn as a sincere Brexit supporter with his lukewarm and doubtful support for Remain in the 2016 referendum as a temporary aberration. Similarly, Theresa May’s one great Remain speech (April 2016) was wholly without enthusiasm or sympathy for the European project, mainly concerned with leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (which requires Brexit) and with stopping immigration (ditto); the speech's pro-Remain conclusion was entirely driven by economics and a transactional approach to specific issues of cooperation. At the very least, neither party leader would be heart-broken by Brexit.

But for every politician who is supporting Brexit just “because it is the will of the people”, for every politician who is supporting Brexit because they fear for their seat or their candidature, for every politician who supports free movement but believes the electorate will not wear it, for every politician who believes in Remain – a people’s vote is the answer.

For every politician who believes in good government where decisions are made only when there is a plan – a people’s vote is the answer.

For every politician who does not wish the country to make a massive change without the whole-hearted and well informed consent of the British people – a people’s vote is the answer.

For every politician who recognises that Brexit is a faultline that runs through each of the main parties and where any decision threatens to rip the parties apart – a people’s vote is the answer.

A people’s vote would give each elector the chance to mark their ballot paper with their answer to the question whether to go forward with Brexit on the Government’s terms or to Remain in the EU.

You can sign up to the people’s vote here

Conclusion

Although the leaderships of both parties are committed to Brexit, a majority of Labour members and voters and substantial numbers of Conservative members and voters support Remain and a referendum on the terms.

It is probably too much to ask that the leaders of the parties come out for Remain. Calling for a people’s vote – a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain – is the more realistic demand.

In the case of both main parties support for a people’s vote will require a change in policy. It is good that so many party members are fighting for it.

 

 

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