An open letter to Jeremy: a public vote must be our bottom line

This letter was sent to Jeremy Corbyn on 6th April 2019.

Dear Jeremy,

In a desperate move by a Prime Minister who has run out of options, the Labour Party has been invited to enter negotiations with Theresa May about reaching cross-party agreement on a Brexit deal. With no support in parliament or in her own party, the Prime Minister has turned to Labour to bail her out.

But Theresa May has been clear that the legally binding part of the Brexit deal, the Withdrawal Agreement, cannot be renegotiated. This means that the only concessions Labour could obtain will be non-binding assurances about the future relationship. Any future Tory Prime Minister could simply rip up these “guarantees” after Theresa May leaves office, and it is the stated aim of the vast majority of Tory MPs to do precisely this.

The only way to guarantee jobs, rights and protections – and Labour’s reputation with its membership and the electorate – is to support a confirmatory public vote on any option which is agreed by parliament, which will put additional pressure on the government to hold the early General Election the country needs.

Under the current leadership, Labour is offering a vision of hope which has inspired millions of people. Tory Brexit threatens this, and so does any perceived participation in delivering it. Any compromise deal which is now agreed by parliament will have no legitimacy if it is not confirmed by the public.

The views of members are clear. Labour’s democratically established policy, passed at party conference in September 2018, is to oppose a Brexit deal which does not meet Labour’s six tests and put any deal that does to a public vote. It would be untenable for Labour not to insist on a public vote on a deal which did not meet these tests.

It is not Labour’s job to rescue Theresa May and usher in her successor. We need a general election to kick out the Tories. It is our job to find a find a way to break the deadlock. In our view, the only way to do that is with a public vote.

We – your supporters – urge you to make a confirmatory public vote your bottom line in negotiations with Theresa May and to fight to bring this government down.

Original Signatories from Love Socialism, Hate Brexit:

  1. Marsha de Cordova MP
  2. Janet Daby MP
  3. Anneliese Dodds MP
  4. Rosie Duffield MP
  5. Ruth George MP
  6. Preet Gill MP
  7. Ged Killen MP
  8. Clive Lewis MP
  9. Rachael Maskell MP
  10. Anna McMorrin MP
  11. Stephen Morgan MP
  12. Chi Onwurah MP
  13. Kate Osamor MP
  14. Luke Pollard MP
  15. Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
  16. Alex Sobel MP
  17. Paul Sweeney MP
  18. Catherine West MP
  19. Matt Rodda MP

Additional signatories that support the sentiment of this letter:

  1. Debbie Abrahams MP
  2. Rushanara Ali MP
  3. Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP
  4. Tonia Antoniazzi MP
  5. Margaret Beckett MP
  6. Ben Bradshaw MP
  7. Chris Bryant MP
  8. Karen Buck MP
  9. Ruth Cadbury MP
  10. Ann Clwyd MP
  11. Neil Coyle MP
  12. Mary Creagh MP
  13. Stella Creasy MP
  14. Alex Cunningham MP
  15. Geraint Davies MP
  16. Tan Dhesi MP
  17. Stephen Doughty MP
  18. Angela Eagle MP
  19. Maria Eagle MP
  20. Dame Louise Ellman MP
  21. Julie Elliott MP
  22. James Frith MP
  23. Kate Green MP
  24. Lilian Greenwood MP
  25. Helen Hayes MP
  26. Meg Hillier MP
  27. Margaret Hodge MP
  28. George Howarth MP
  29. Rupa Huq MP
  30. Sarah Jones MP
  31. Susan Elan Jones MP
  32. Darren Jones MP
  33. Liz Kendall MP
  34. Peter Kyle MP
  35. David Lammy MP
  36. Chris Matheson MP
  37. Steve McCabe MP
  38. Kerry McCarthy MP
  39. Alison McGovern MP
  40. Catherine McKinnell MP
  41. Madeleine Moon MP
  42. Ian Murray MP
  43. Jess Phillips MP
  44. Bridget Phillipson MP
  45. Steve Reed MP
  46. Rachel Reeves MP
  47. Ellie Reeves MP
  48. Virendra Sharma MP
  49. Barry Shearman MP
  50. Andy Slaughter MP
  51. Owen Smith MP
  52. Jo Stevens MP
  53. Wes Streeting MP
  54. Gareth Thomas MP
  55. Stephen Timms MP
  56. Anna Turley MP
  57. Thelma Walker MP
  58. Matt Western MP
  59. Martin Whitfield MP
  60. Phil Wilson MP
  61. Dr Paul Williams MP
  62. Daniel Zeichner MP
  63. David Hanson MP
  64. Seema Malhotra MP
  65. David Drew MP

Jeremy agrees: we must have a confirmatory vote on any deal

Our second weekly column for Labourlist

By Marsha de Cordova and Alex Sobel

The country is tired of Brexit, and so are we. Our national politics has become saturated with process and horse-trading, while our public services have been run into the ground and the planet is boiling. MPs have a duty to find a solution to this crisis, with just 16 days between now and the cliff-edge. Last night’s indicative voteswere, hopefully, the beginning of the end of the impasse, with parliament taking control of the process.

What last night’s votes demonstrated was that no Brexit option has a majority in parliament. To get an agreement of some kind, we are going to need two things: more time to debate the way forward, and a public vote. We used to regard the Kyle-Wilson amendment as a means of putting Theresa May’s deal to a public vote. After the Speaker’s rulings and its showing in the first two meaningful votes, any attempt to bring back that deal is going to feel like resuscitating a corpse. It is clear that any deal or plan must be subject to the same basic principle: it needs to go back to the people.

Last night, Jeremy Corbyn led Labour in backing a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal. We need Labour to stay focused and united behind this strategy. It is our route to stopping the Tory government’s disastrous Brexit and to bringing down the government itself. If we are able to secure a referendum and then win it, Labour will have the chance to ride into power on the crest of a new progressive wave in British politics, battering back the racist lies of right-wing Brexiteers and making the case for an economy that serves the many.

But this isn’t just about parliamentary majorities, or Labour’s wider prospects. It is a straightforward question of democratic principle. While it’s good that we could be able to find a way out of the Brexit chaos in the coming days, we also have to be clear that none of the possible options have a public mandate. We cannot have parliament panic-buying a Brexit deal with just weeks to go, with no public debate or vote. The people deserve the final say.

The people are also demanding a say. This Saturday, we took part in one of the biggest demonstrations in British history. As part of the ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ group of Labour MPs, we were proud to march with the left bloc and speak at the accompanying rally alongside labour movement activists, climate strikers and migrants’ rights campaigners. We marched surrounded by Labour Party banners and placards calling not just for a final say on Brexit, but also for a transformation of society.

We know that these are the radical politics shared by an overwhelming majority of Labour members and supporters. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015, these ideas have rightly been put back at the heart of our politics. But stopping Brexit is a crucial part of our task if we are to stop the right and build that progressive wave that is needed to see our politics become a reality.

Brexit, if it happens, would be a massive step backwards for the left, threatening our rights and the livelihoods of the people Labour was founded to represent. From the start, it was a right-wing project driven by a nationalist agenda and backed by free market fundamentalists. Our party has nothing to gain from enabling it, and neither do our communities. Instead of tinkering around the edges and settling for damage limitation, we must be where the movement is: doing all we can to prevent a catastrophic Brexit from happening while putting forward a radical economic programme that can bring our country back together.

The next couple of weeks will be full of complex parliamentary process, much of it unprecedented. But we cannot afford to get lost in technicalities. We need to be clear, absolutely clear, about the simple principle: the people must have a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal.

If a deal is passed, Brexit never ends. We must put a stop to it

By Clive Lewis and Kate Osamor.

Love Socialism Hate Brexit is a group of radical and socialist Labour MPs fighting to stop Brexit. We will be writing a column for LabourList every Thursday until the Brexit crisis is over. This is our first column and appears on Labourlist here

If a deal goes through parliament, Brexit never ends. The mood in every part of the country, and across the political spectrum, is one of fatigue and wanting this moment to end. But Britain’s departure from the EU isn’t the end of the Brexit moment – it’s the beginning of it in earnest. If we leave, we face something like 10 years of complex negotiations over the real substance of our future relationship, with the same cast of characters and the same impasses.

Brexit is already draining our politics, drowning out the real issues and the public debates that we so desperately need to hold. We have just a few years to prevent irreversible climate catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless in this country. Academisation and cuts are rotting away at our schools. The NHS is being dismantled. Local government has been cut so deeply that social care and community services will take years to recover, even when funding is restored. The richest 10% of people in the UK own 45% of its wealth.

Labour has the answers to these problems. Since 2015, our party has been on a journey that has seen it break from the establishment politics of the past. Our 2017 manifesto was the starting point for a transformative government and the transition to a sustainable economy. Thanks to our turn to the left, we are the only social democratic party in Europe to be on the up rather than facing electoral oblivion. As longtime socialists and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, we are proud to be playing our part in working towards a socialist Labour government.

Brexit threatens all of the progress we have made. The public rightly regards this episode as an exercise in politicians wrangling over a chaotic process and neglecting the real issues. Unless it offers a sharp alternative on Brexit, Labour will not be immune to that sentiment. Meanwhile, our national discourse is becoming increasingly poisonous. Racists the far right are on the rise, feeding off the idea that the 2016 EU referendum put them on the winning side of history.

There is a reason for which so many Tories are willing to grit their teeth through this level of chaos, division and instability. Brexit is a project designed to deregulate the economy and precipitate a race to the bottom in standards and protections. For the class the Tories represent, this means profit. For working-class people, it means falling wages, lost jobs, less rights and guaranteed austerity. The rich will always have free movement – it’s just ordinary folk who will experience the borders, family breakups and deportations.

We have now joined with a host of other radical and socialist Labour MPs to form Love Socialism Hate Brexit. Together, we are campaigning for the socialist Labour government we all need. And we are taking a stand with Labour members, and with the communities we represent, to fight against the disaster that is Brexit. We, and other members of Love Socialism Hate Brexit, will write a column every Thursday for LabourList.

We want to turn this from a moment of stagnation and frustration into a moment of hope. By uniting, Labour can end the Brexit chaos, bring down the government, and rebuild and transform Britain. We can live up to our role as an internationalist party, leading the left in Europe to fight climate chaos, bring forward a compassionate refugee policy, and combat and regulate capital. We need to remain and transform the EU.

A final say is now the demand of a huge and growing mass movement. This Saturday, we will be marching with the Left Bloc on a gigantic Put It To The People protest. We urge all Labour members to join us at 11am at Stanhope Gate.

We are proud that Labour has come out for a final say, and that it will be whipping for the Kyle-Wilson amendment next week. But whipping alone will not be enough – we need to build a case for transforming Britain and Europe, in parliament and in the country. As socialist Labour MPs, we are going to organise together to fight against Brexit and end this nightmare. We urge you to join us.

Campaign against Brexit starts now – on positive terms only Labour can deliver

Published by the Guardian on 3rd March.

We are proud to be part of a movement that is changing politics. In 2017, we were all elected on a brilliant, radical manifesto, and as members of the largest left-of-centre party in Europe. We also need to be honest about the fact that Brexit has posed a serious challenge to the unity and political integrity of the Labour movement. That is why the shift we have seen from the Labour leadership towards backing a final say is so vital if we are to continue to inspire millions of people and deliver the social and economic agenda that we have promised.

Brexit was always a Tory project, and this is the Tories’ mess. But our approach to Brexit cannot just be a question of competence or parliamentary footwork. It must be rooted in an understanding of what Brexit is really about – boosting nationalism, scrapping regulations and blaming immigrants for a social crisis which is really the result of rightwing economic policy. Brexit won’t just destroy jobs and harm the communities we represent; it is also a crucial point of reference for the rise of the far right globally.

If Labour had failed to stand up to this agenda, we would have faced ruin, with a demoralised activist and voter base. Now that we are backing a final say, we have a chance to turn these problems on their head. It is failed politics, where people across our communities have been ignored, that has created this divided society. With a different politics, we can return to the mass enthusiasm and people-powered politics that drove the Corbyn surge of 2015.

To rise to this challenge, Labour will have to do far more than vote the right way. We must campaign wholeheartedly and with radical politics at the front of our case, as many trade unions already are. We will need the Labour movement to mobilise and fight for the right of the British people to have the final say, just as union members get to vote on the deals negotiated by their leadership.

Labour is not arguing for a re-run of the 2016 referendum, but a ratification vote on a specific deal. As John McDonnell has said, Labour is now clear that Remain would be on the ballot paper. The campaign against Brexit needs to start now, and on positive terms which only Labour can deliver. On doorsteps and in communities, we need to launch an insurgent campaign which combines internationalism with a vision for transforming our economy and democracy, and putting power and wealth in the hands of the many, not the few.

The EU reflects the political reality of the member states that comprise it, and is far from perfect. We deplore the treatment of Greece by the European institutions, and the fact that tens of thousands of migrants have been left to drown in the Mediterranean Sea. It is precisely because of these criticisms that our movement has a moral duty to stay and fight in the EU, working alongside the European left and using our position as the largest group in the Party of European Socialists. Jeremy Corbyn, and the mass movement underneath him, could yet be a major player in influencing the EU’s policies and development for the decades ahead.

Unless we find a way to deliver a just transition to a sustainable economy, not only for Britain but for the entire planet, we face catastrophe. The EU provides a unique international framework to do this. A zero-carbon economy across Europe can go alongside a charter of trade union rights, a tax avoidance crackdown and a massive programme of redistribution, so that we level up rather than racing to the bottom. These are the policies that are required to combat the rise of the far right. We need to build unions, not borders.

We share the frustration, and we understand the doubts, of many of our parliamentary colleagues. Labour has heard the cry from Brexit and we must heal the divide. No one would have chosen the situation we are now in. What comes next involves pain, and will require bravery. But we now have an opportunity to defeat Tory Brexit, bring down the government, and rebuild and transform Britain. We must seize it.

Kate Osamor, Clive Lewis, Lloyd Russell Moyle, Rachael Maskell, Marsha de Cordova, Paul Sweeney, Anna McMorrin, Chi Onwurah, Ged Killen, Alex Sobel, Luke Pollard

Sign up to hear more

  • When you sign up we will send campaign updates and news in accordance with our privacy policy. You can unsubscribe at any time.