The case for a People’s Vote
London4Europe Committee member and former senior civil servant Michael Romberg has produced this briefing note for your meeting with your MP – the single most important campaigning activity you can undertake with any MP who is not 100% certain to support the referendum on the terms with the option to Remain (People’s Vote).
We have produced some background material on where MPs stand, a note on how to get to see your MP and one on what really lands with your MP. If you cannot get to see your MP you should write – a model letter is here.
The briefing is aimed at a persuadable MP who has not come out for a People’s Vote. With committed supporters you might wish to emphasise more the support they have in the constituency.
Points to Make
In 2016 Leave had no plan.
No-one takes a proposal from idea to implementation without a review of the project plan.
So the referendum mandate is provisional until there is a plan.
The electorate should review the plan.
That means a referendum on the terms of Brexit with the option to Remain.
Defensives - Principles
[We have to accept democracy.] But what did the people say? Norway and Canada are both outside the EU – but the relationships are very different. The Brexits promised in 2016 do not exist.
[Leavers would not accept a further referendum.] It is honourable to ask the same people who voted on Brexit-the-idea whether they like Brexit-the-plan. It’s a different question.
[If Parliament votes for the Government’s plan why have a referendum?] Parliament’s vote would say that the Government’s plan is the best available Brexit. The choice between best available Brexit and EU membership should be put to the electorate for an informed Final Say.
[My constituents voted Leave – I must respect their wishes.] Did they vote to make themselves poorer? How can you be certain what they want now except by asking them in a referendum?
[No reason to think that public opinion has shifted decisively against Brexit.] Leave only ever had a small majority – and that when all possible Brexits were on the table. Once there is a plan and only one Brexit is possible support for Brexit will fall away.
[Decision to Leave has been taken. Only the choice of deal is up for discussion, not whether to Remain.] Not how decisions are made. Let’s have a picnic! Oh, it’s raining. Must we still go to the park?
[No public interest in referendum.] Support is growing. People will become more interested once the terms are known, costs are clear.
[A referendum would be divisive.] Drifting into Brexit on the basis of a decision without a plan will not heal the divisions. A referendum – with the possibility of a decisive outcome (in 1975: 67%R:33%L) - that could heal the country.
Defensives - Practicalities
[No question on the ballot paper could be decisive or seen as fair.] The Electoral Commission will ensure the question is fair and that voters understand the process. Only if the Leave campaign actually come up with a real worked-up alternative to the Government’s plan should it be considered as a possibility.
[The Future Relationship will be set out in a non-binding declaration – not worth voting on.] MPs need to ensure that we do not have a blind Brexit. The political declaration has to say what the basis of our relationship will be. There are only two friendly options: close (Norway/ EEA/ CU) or distant (Canada style FTA with Irish backstop). Which will it be?
[Not enough time for a referendum.] We can ask the EU to extend the Article 50 period by a few months. EU have already made contingency plans for seat allocation in European Parliament to cover possibility that UK is still in the EU in May.
[Article 50 notice may not be withdrawn.] The European Court of Justice will hear a case on 27 November that will settle the question. Anyway it will be possible to withdraw the notice by agreement with the EU27.
[EU will give us a bad deal if they know we might reconsider.] A country always has the right to reconsider, so they know that already.
Defensives – Tactics
[Should go for a sensible compromise Brexit, eg Norway or a Customs Union.] It is for Government and Parliament to work out the best available Brexit. Once there is a plan it should be put to the electorate with the option to stay in the EU.
[More important to stop no-deal by accepting the deal than to try for a referendum.] Identify the Government’s deal as the best available Brexit and as a condition demand a referendum on the deal with the option to Remain.
[A General Election is the best way to tackle the problem of Brexit.] A general election answers a different question – who should form government. Brexit cuts across party lines. If Labour was in power it too would tear itself to pieces over Brexit as the Conservatives are doing now.
[Brexit is second order issue – we need to tackle inequality &c.] Brexit would make tackling real issues much harder: Government would be preoccupied with Brexit, there would be less money.
[Brexit is necessary to keep the party together.] The 1975 referendum was successful at keeping Labour together. 2016 failed with the Conservatives because Brexit was still a live issue. The 2019 referendum would settle the question.
There is an indexed list of blogs about the referendum to help you prepare.
Articles on the page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.