With the conference season approaching, it is becoming alarmingly clear that the only people capable of stopping Brexit are the delegates to this year’s Labour party conference.
Steve Richards (Here is the one way to end Theresa May’s Brexit gridlock, 3 August) sets out a terrifying, but all too likely scenario, where May faces down the Johnson/Rees-Mogg faction by holding a new referendum on a simple “My deal or no deal” choice, leaving remainers with no option except a spoilt ballot paper.
This plan fits with Patrick Wintour and Peter Walker’s article (Remain concerns at ‘German face-saving’ plan for blind Brexit, 2 August), where despairing EU negotiators agree to let the details of a deal muddle on past the leave deadline, so May’s “My deal” would in reality be “trust me to continue working to get this right” after having castrated her opponents.
Assuming she isn’t deposed, her only other option to win the authority she needs would be a general election, but that would be a far riskier strategy and would not resolve the internal party conflict that led to this mess in the first place.
So what can remainers do? The majority of Labour MPs and party members want to remain in the EU and work with other progressives to resolve the issues that caused the Brexit vote. But so far, Labour’s policy has accepted the referendum result as a tablet of stone and the leadership shows no sign of rejecting the myth of a “Jobs Brexit”.
So this year’s Labour conference may be the last chance to stop Brexit. Delegates could force Jeremy Corbyn to oppose the concept of Brexit and adopt a “remain and reform” policy to fight May’s economically suicidal survival strategy. Will they have the courage?
• We remainers lost the Brexit referendum, and we can’t really expect a rerun of essentially the same question because we didn’t like the result. The “three-choice referendum” proposal that has been commonly proposed recently – with “May deal”, “No deal”, or “Remain” options – is therefore not a realistic way forward, not least because it would split the Brexit vote as has been pointed out elsewhere.
However, we could legitimately hold a further referendum with three choices that all still entail Brexit in the strictest sense, ie leaving the EU, if the three options were “May deal”, “No deal” or “EEA membership” – the so-called Norway option.
Of course none of these are ideal to everyone but at least the last one would be comprehensible to our friends in the EU.
• Steve Richards makes a strong case for a second referendum, once a Brexit deal is finalised, giving a simple choice of voting to accept this deal, or voting to leave the EU without a deal.
But what if it produces a majority for “no deal”? To my mind for the government to allow this option, which flies in the face of what they believe would be in the interest of the UK, would be hugely irresponsible. It would seriously undermine our democracy. Why should the public have confidence in a parliament unwilling to speak for the country? And what if my neighbour, along with millions of others, were to vote for us crashing out of the EU, and as a consequence I lose my job? Do I get angry with that neighbour? What redress would I have? Whereas if parliament makes the decision, I can vent my dissatisfaction by protesting and campaigning against the MPs or the party responsible. I fear a second referendum might prove even more divisive than the first.
• I can assure Steve Richards that remainers like myself would boycott a “deal or no deal” referendum in droves – and very noisily. The result of such a vote – with probably less than 20% of those entitled to vote supporting the winning option – would only call deeper into question the democratic credentials of the whole Brexit project. Certainly it could hardly be said to reflect “the will of the people”.
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