Brexit means a return to 1974

Mike Davis is right to argue a general election is unlikely and a referendum more feasible. But the timings make either or a party conference impossible unless the Brexit Leave deadline is moved back from March 29th. The immediate priority is to support Geraint Davies’ bill:

GERAINT DAVIES BILL FOR REVOCATION ARTICLE 50

SUMMARY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (REVOCATION OF NOTIFICATION OF WITHDRAWAL) BILL 2017-19

A Bill to require the Prime Minister to revoke the notification, under Article 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union, of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union  unless two conditions are met; to  establish as first condition for non-revocation that a withdrawal agreement has been approved by Parliament by January 21st 2019 or during an extension period agreed by that date under Article 50 (3) of the Treaty on European Union; to establish as the second condition for non-revocation that a majority of participating voters have voted for that agreement in a referendum in which the UK remaining as a member of the European Union was the other option, and for connected purposes.

If passed, other options become possible. But we should stop thinking any position can command a Labour majority as the Party is split down the middle. Reports of shadow ministers threatening to resign if a vote is supported should be taken seriously. No policy will keep the parliamentary party united. Leave seat MPs will quit if asked to support Remain.

No one votes to lose their job. So the second priority is learning the lessons of history and what Harold Wilson did in 1974.

Labour was split on the same issue, so Wilson committed in the election manifesto to a referendum – the now invisible first referendum – and Labour held together and won the election. In the vote in 1975 he allowed MPs to vote for or against, the whips were taken off. This is the only viable position today.

Both Tories and Labour are split, so should have no line in the vote on the Referendum. The mantra must be “LET THE VOTERS DECIDE”. This is a position to unite Labour and win a majority in the Commons for a vote. In that vote all 3 options – Leave, Remain and the Deal – must be on the ballot as they have MP support of some kind.

And a decision must be made one way or the other. While I signed the Guardian letter of 16th, I don’t agree with citizens forums and endless chat  (the Compass position). We have to have a best of three vote within a year and whatever position gets majority support on the day wins.

That is principled and attractive. Let’s accept it is the best we can do.

Trevor Fisher

Trevor Fisher edits the Brexit Skeptic blog.