May defiant as Labour set to back second vote

Fighting talk: Corbyn said he will “not walk away” from a second referendum if Labour members want one.

Should there be a people’s vote on Brexit? As rumours of a snap general election swirl, Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that Labour could campaign for a second referendum.

As the Labour Party conference opened in Liverpool yesterday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy, Tom Watson, announced that the party will support a campaign for a people’s vote on Brexit if members vote for it this week.

A new referendum would give the public an option to cancel Brexit if the government offers an unpopular final deal or fails to secure one altogether.

If Labour members want it, “we will go out and argue for it,” pledged Watson.

A dramatic poll revealed that 86% of Labour members want a people’s vote. Another survey found that backing a vote could win the party 1.5 million extra votes in a general election and a potential route to power.

The news will pile more pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, who is reeling from a bruising encounter with EU leaders in Salzburg at the weekend.

At the summit, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, firmly stated the Chequers plan — May’s blueprint for Brexit — “will not work”. French President Emmanuel Macron branded Leave campaigners “liars”.

But May is defiant, telling the EU to treat Britain with respect, and insisting a second vote would send us “right back to square one”.

Journalist Matt Kelly disagrees. He argues it is undemocratic to deny the public a chance to reconsider now that the stark reality of Brexit has become clear.

“May has nowhere to go,” Kelly writes. Corbyn says he will to team up with Brexiteers like Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to oppose the current plan and bring May down.

Alternatively, Kelly thinks that if May chooses to “push through with a No Deal… Parliament will find a way to bring it to a vote and bring it down.”

The Sunday Times reported that May’s team are contingency planning for a snap election in November as a last-ditch attempt to secure a mandate for her plan and save Brexit talks.

If Britain does go to the polls, a people’s vote would likely be a central battleground for Labour.

Should we have a people’s vote?

Will of the people

Absolutely, say some. When the public voted the first time, the Leave campaign made unrealistic promises that the UK could keep the benefits of membership without giving up anything in return. It is now clear that Brexit is unworkable and we face the real prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal. The public deserves a new vote in light of this reality.

Certainly not, respond others. The EU referendum was always a decisive vote to settle the issue for good, and the public voted to leave. We can’t just keep holding votes until the political establishment gets the result it wants. A so-called people’s vote would set a dangerous anti-democratic precedent and make the public debate even more toxic.

You Decide

  1. Should there be a people’s vote on Brexit?
  2. Do you think the result would be the same as last time?

Activities

  1. Plot a timeline of key events relating to Brexit, starting with the referendum in March 2016.
  2. Follow the link to our You Decide poll in Become An Expert. Vote in the poll and write a short essay explaining your decision.

Some People Say...

“It should not be left to 650 politicians in London to decide our future.”

Chuka Umunna

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
As the Labour Party conference opened in Liverpool yesterday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he will support a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal if members back a motion this week. Polls show there is overwhelming support among Labour members for a second referendum, and the party could attract more votes in a general election by adopting the policy.
What do we not know?
Whether there will ever be a people’s vote. Theresa May has ruled out any such referendum, but the campaign for one is gathering pace. We also do not know what the ballot paper would look like if there was a second vote. There would likely be a lot of disagreements over what options should be on the table, such as accepting a deal, choosing to leave without a deal or cancelling Brexit altogether.

Word Watch

86%
According to a poll by YouGov.
Chequers
The deal would see the UK continue to abide by many EU rules to ensure frictionless trade with Europe after Brexit and to avoid the need for a hard border in Northern Ireland. Legal cases would still be referred to the European Court of Justice, which many Brexiteers are opposed to. Its critics say the deal would mean the UK would have to obey EU rules without having any say in how they are made.
Matt Kelly
Kelly is the editor of the New European, a pro-remain newspaper.
Snap election
May previously called a snap election in June 2017 in an effort to secure a greater majority and put herself in a stronger position ahead of Brexit negotiations. In fact, the Conservative majority narrowed and May was forced to make a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to pass key votes in Parliament.
Mandate
When the electorate grants a politician the authority to act on their behalf.