01 Apr, 2019
Chair's message to members - 1 April 2019
Dear Member or Supporter
Brexit? April Fool!
So Brexit Day has passed with no Brexit. We are not starting the first week of the sunlit uplands, no downsides at all, free trade agreements signed and in place, regained freedom and independence, global leadership &c &c &c. It turns out that "nothing has changed".
Indicative Votes on Brexit
The results show some clear patterns, although distorted by Labour's decision to whip for some options. No-Deal and Revocation have less support; but so do the options that involve single market membership - a clear warning to us that we have so far failed to make the case for freedom of movement.
The motion that came closest to passing was for some sort of customs union. That is not that different from the Government's deal. How else are they going to stop the customs element of the Irish backstop kicking in?
Anyway, as far as I am concerned all Brexits are bad so I don't really care which one is put forward.
But all that is shadow boxing
For Leavers, the meaning of Brexit should be fundamental to the decision whether to go ahead. Norway Plus is quite different from a Canada-style FTA at the GB level. But that would be in the non-binding political declaration. So the only binding Brexit choice right now comes down to No-Deal (a hostile relationship with the EU) and the Withdrawal Agreement (a positive relationship with the EU) followed by a debate on what Brexit means. Decision first, reason afterwards; the Red Queen would be impressed.
There is no clear path from the indicative votes to a binding result. Text in the political declaration could be undone in the negotiations. Even a law could be changed by a Government with a majority. The main lesson from Theresa May's pre-announced resignation is that post-Brexit every relationship consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement would be on the table. Given how divided both main parties are a general election would not get us further forward. Both manifestos would presumably promise fantasy Brexits.
A referendum result would be the closest to a politically binding direction for Brexit. We know how powerful a referendum is. A referendum decision to join or not join the single market or a customs union would be hard for a Government to dishonour. So even Brexiters should call for a referendum to ensure the closest the political system can offer to a binding mandate for their preferred Brexit (so long as it is one that can actually be delivered).
Indicative Vote on a referendum
The option that had most support was a confirmatory referendum: 268 votes in favour. Congratulations! You did that. It was the result of all the campaigning that you have put in for a People's Vote. The street stalls (in the rain), the leafleting (in the rain), the mass marches (in the sunshine; funny that), the social media activity, the endless writing to MPs.
The great achievement of the PV campaign was to unite the Remain movement around the one democratic means of stopping Brexit that has a chance of allowing the country to heal if we stay in the EU because the process would enable the losers to feel that they had had the chance to make their case and because Remainers would have had to reach out to Leavers to persuade them. We must not lose that unity of purpose.
But, as you know, the motion was lost. The motion did not specify that Remain would be an option; even now that R-word is too dangerous for some MPs. Labour whipped in favour. Even so 27 Labour MPs voted against and 18 abstained. The lack of disciplinary action against the Labour frontbenchers who abstained does not suggest the whip was that hard, which will have implications for next time.
So we are simultaneously nearly there and not nearly there.
But I am more optimistic than I have been for some time. Our message is clear. The PV is not an alternative to passing Brexit. In fulfilment of the 2016 referendum mandate Parliament does have to accept one or more Brexit options - and in spite of MV2½ that might yet be the deal. But no-one lets a decision to look at an idea commit them to whatever plan is later cooked up. So the Brexit(s) that Parliament accepts need to be put to the people. Acceptance does not mean that MPs think it is better than Remain; just that the plan does actually exist.
We lost by 27 votes. 74 did not vote - could more of them be persuaded to join us than oppose? Nine MPs voted for revoke to avoid No-Deal and not for a referendum - could we bring them round to the PV proposition? A gap of 27 means that if just 14 change their minds, we win. Surely, Conservative Remainers will see that a rebellion now would have a point and not just be a costly gesture.
Indicative Votes 2
Today sees a further round of indicative votes; perhaps there will be Round 3 on Wednesday. We will have to hope that MPs come round to the PV in greater numbers. Please do tell yours what you want.
If Theresa May wishes to bring the deal back for another vote, it needs to be different. The biggest difference from previous votes would be if it was likely to pass. The change most likely to make it pass would be if it was subject to a referendum with the option to Remain. Time for another U-turn from the Prime Minister - and then everything would have changed.
This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.
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