Brexit: Referendum campaigners urge supporters to focus on democratic outrage of Boris Johnson imposing no deal
Focusing only on constitutional battles risks playing into Downing Street’s ‘frame that MPs are frustrating rather than protecting democracy’, strategy note says
Final Say campaigners are urging supporters to regroup and focus attention on the democratic outrage of Boris Johnson attempting to impose the “scorched earth policy” of no-deal Brexit without consulting the British public.
It comes as negotiations with the EU remain at an impasse, and widespread speculation Mr Johnson may seek to stay on as prime minister even if he loses a confidence vote in order to deliver Brexit on 31 October.
In a strategy note circulated to 300 MPs, Margaret Beckett, the former Labour foreign secretary, and Tory MP Dominic Grieve, claim that unless Downing Street is playing an “extraordinary game of bluff” there is no intention to seek a renegotiated Brexit deal.
In their memo – seen by The Independent – they instruct MPs to focus on the bold arguments for a People's Vote, rather than speculation over arcane parliamentary procedure that may be used in the coming weeks.
Focusing solely on these constitutional battles, they argue, risks playing into Downing Street’s “frame that MPs are frustrating rather than protecting democracy”.
“Instead, we need to use the next few weeks to reassert with clarity and conviction the democratic principles that underpin our campaign,” they wrote.
“Given Johnson himself and other prominent Leave campaigners explicitly ruled out no deal in 2016, it should be blindingly obvious he does not have a mandate to force it on us now.
“Attempts to subvert parliament and impose this scorched earth policy on the British people simply to keep the Conservative Party membership happy must be shown up for what they are: a threat to the very democracy they pretend to uphold.”
Mr Grieve and Dame Margaret, who are joint chairs of the People’s Vote political committee, argue that Britain cannot leave on 31 October without “allowing the people of the UK back into this decision”.
If Mr Johnson does call a general election in the coming weeks, the People’s Vote campaign will urge Jeremy Corbyn not to sanction Labour’s approval for it unless the prime minister confirms he will request an extension of the Article 50 process, “such that polling day take place well in advance of its expiration”.
In the scenario of Mr Johnson losing a confidence vote, they write that a general election “must not be used as a device” to get Brexit over the line without a deal without the public having their say. “In a functioning democracy, the legislature has the power to rein in an out-of-control executive,” they add.
Dame Margaret and Mr Grieve write that they have never thought a general election would either be “decisive in settling the Brexit crisis nor necessarily fair”.
They add: “It is possible, for instance, that it would result in another hung parliament or a no-deal Johnson government exploiting divisions among Remain voters to win a majority with as little as 35 per cent of the vote.
“But the prospect of a December general election – fought in circumstances where Brexit has not yet been resolved and Nigel Farage is still striking terror into the heart of the Conservative Party – is a much less attractive one for the prime minister.”
“We believe that it would mean many more Conservative MPs, perhaps even including the prime minister himself, would then conclude that the best way forward is to give the people the final say in a new referendum.”