Don't despair, the people will have a Final Say on Brexit. It's now inevitable
Labour members and activists need to redouble their efforts in campaigning for a second referendum – and they need to do it now
The vote in the commons rejecting a second referendum looks dispiriting for those of us who want our Final Say on Brexit. The proposal, put forward by Sarah Woolaston of The Independent Group, went down by 85 to 334 votes. She didn’t manage to achieve a much greater each than what you might call the “usual suspects” – her Independent Group, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party. Labour officially abstained; the Conservatives whipped against it. Few in the two major parties defied their whips. Some 25 Labour MPs voted for a peoples vote referendum; but 18, including front benchers, went against, with at least one consequent resignation.
As the process grinds on, and with a truly determined Labour whipping operation, those figures could easily be much, much closer. Even against determined government resistance, if it continues to be clear that parliament remains in deadlock, more and more MPs will seek to put the question back to the people.
]Labour members and activists will surely make their passion for a second referendum known. They need to redouble their lobbying efforts – now.
Labour is a democratic party that respects conference as sovereign. It is high time for Jeremy Corbyn and his front benchers to behave like they believe that.
The second possibility is a grand bargain between the two main parties. This goes under the name of the Kyle-Wilson plan, named after two Labour backbenchers: Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson. There are variants on the theme but the basic bargain is a crude one: Labour will help pass May’s deal in return for it being conditional on a popular vote (and a genuinely open one with remain on the ballot paper).
That might be attractive for a prime mister in a tight corner, and she is certainly there. When she loses her third go at the “meaningful vote” next week, she might well declare to the House the following: “Mr Speaker, plainly, the government has been unable to win the support of this house for our proposed exit form the European Union. We regret but respect the decision of the House. We will, therefore now move to take our case to the people, in order to fulfil and confirm the mandate for Brexit they gave us in 2016. I shall now invite other parties to consult with us on the procedures and in due course take the necessary steps with the Electoral Commission. I shall inform the European Union of our intention to ratify the Brexit deal we agreed with them in the court of public opinion. The people will have the Final Say.”
Something like that, anyway. Who knows, she might even win. It would make a nice change for her, and at last the country would be able to live with itself, a democratic decision taken with the facts on the table and the possibilities known.