It's time for Labour to back a People's Vote on Brexit

25 Jun 2018


On Saturday, an estimated 100,000 people marched through the streets of London campaigning for a vote on the Brexit deal, and it is time for Labour to back them.


Two years after 51.8% of the British electorate voted to leave the EU, public attitudes towards Brexit appear to have shifted. The latest poll from Survation projects remain would win in another referendum with 53% of the vote.


Since the UK voted to leave the EU, a new Prime Minister has taken office and a general election has been held. During that election, Corbyn sat on the Brexit fence, focusing on other issues such as the NHS and tuition fees during his campaign.


Labour may have been successful at the last election by being vague on Brexit, attracting remain and leave voters to stop Theresa May from winning a majority. However, this tactic may prove less optimal at the next election , and if Labour want to overcome their 3% deficit in the vote share they must back a People’s Vote.


The ‘youth-quake’ that saved Labour in the 2017 general election may abandon the party if it does not change its position on Brexit. According to YouGov, almost a quarter of Labour voters could back another party, be it the Liberal Democrats or Greens, if Labour do not change their stance.


This same poll has found that almost two thirds of Labour supporters would be "delighted or pleased" if Labour were to stop Brexit.


One must remember that these are just polls and they do not necessarily equate to an accurate representation of the entirety of Labour voters. Despite this, such evidence cannot be ignored by the Labour leadership, neither can the huge protests in London, nor the anti-Brexit message from Labour supporters at Labour Live.


Although there are many reasons for a referendum to be held on the Brexit deal (which will be discussed later), the biggest argument for shifting Labour to join the Lib Dems and Greens and back the Vote is that Corbyn’s main voter base is young people. Corbyn successfully persuaded the youth to turn out and vote Labour at the last election, but young people are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit.


If Corbyn truly wishes to stand up ‘for the many and not the few’, he must back the People’s Vote.


This vote will ask voters if they will accept or reject the Brexit deal that the Prime Minister brings back from the negotiating table. Unfortunately, for remainers such as myself, there is not a consensus on what the ballot paper should contain. There is consensus, however, on the fact that it is for Parliament to decide what question voters will respond to at polling stations.


The best option overall is a two-tier ballot paper. This would primarily ask whether the Brexit deal should be accepted or rejected and then follow this with a question as to what should happen if the deal is rejected. Would the UK crash out of the EU on a disastrous no-deal Brexit, or remain in the EU?


It is more likely than not that if a vote on the deal were to be held a simpler question would be asked of the electorate, either accepting or rejecting the deal and then remaining in the EU if it is rejected.


One popular argument made by Brexiteers is that a new referendum should not have the option to remain in the EU as the decision has already been taken. This is feeble; the electorate’s opinion may as well be tested on whether Brexit should go ahead, as many variables since the 2016 vote have changed.


Far from mere electioneering from the Labour Party, the case for a People’s Vote is strong. Another referendum will kill off the Brexit issue once and for all and give clarity to the electorate’s opinion.


Those who were 16 and 17 in 2016 could not vote, despite Brexit impacting the youth more than the elderly. They will now be old enough to vote on the biggest political issue facing the UK in decades.


The facts have changed since 2016. Brexiteers have backtracked on their comments and businesses are threatening to pack-up and move, jeopardising many jobs. But most importantly, demand for a new vote is present - if 100,000 people marching through the streets of London is not an evident enough indicator of support, a recent poll found only 25% of the population oppose a People’s Vote.


Jeremy Corbyn must listen to his supporters. He must back a vote on the final deal. The electorate did not sign a blank cheque on Brexit in 2016, and they should be consulted again on this different issue.


Corbyn is ultimately a Brexiteer at heart, even calling for Article 50 to be triggered immediately after the 2016 referendum result. Nevertheless, he should listen to his supporters and change his stance. If he does not, he will lose the next election.

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