The Independent Group: Time for Labour to drop their terms and conditions on a People's Vote

4 March 2019

Following comments last week by the Leader and members of the Shadow Cabinet of the Labour Party, and ahead of key Brexit votes in the week of 11 March 2019, today (Monday 4 March 2019) The Independent Group has called on the Official Opposition to drop the terms and conditions attached to its policy on giving the British people the final say on Brexit and to join all the other opposition groupings in the House of Commons in unequivocally backing a People's Vote.

In particular The Independent Group identifies three issues which need to be resolved to end the ambiguity in Labour's position:

  1. If support were secured in the House of Commons – whether by Labour in Government or Opposition – for Labour’s alternative Brexit deal, is it party policy to put that form of Brexit and the option to stay in the EU to the electorate in a People’s Vote?
  2. Given Labour’s alternative Brexit deal was rejected by the House of Commons, will Labour now support a cross party People’s Vote amendment at the earliest opportunity and, if not, when?
  3. Will Labour frontbenchers who fail to support a People’s Vote amendment be removed from their shadow ministerial posts?

In the open letter to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, The Independent Group warn that younger voters in particular would not forgive the two main parties if their MPs vote to block the electorate from having the final say on Brexit: "Millions of younger voters who stand to be affected more than others and have not had their say on this disaster, expect us to ensure their voice is heard."

Commenting on the open letter to the Shadow Cabinet, The Independent Group's Spokesperson Chuka Umunna MP said:

“With just 26 days to go to the scheduled date of departure, it is absolutely vital that we all work together in the national interest to give people the final say on Brexit. All terms and conditions attached to a People’s Vote need to be dropped and an unequivocal commitment given now to make it happen. There is no time to waste.”

The full text of The Independent Group's open letter to the Shadow Cabinet is below:

“Dear Members of the Shadow Cabinet,

Last week we tabled a cross party amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion of 27 February on leaving the European Union.

Our amendment was signed and supported by MPs from five different political parties, who are unequivocally committed to ensuring a People’s Vote is held giving the British people the final say on whether we leave the European Union. The amendment sought to instruct the Prime Minister to set out the steps necessary for preparing for a People’s Vote and it was disappointing that even this paving amendment failed to secure sufficient support from Labour and Tory MPs to be selected.

After the votes on 27 February, we note that the Leader of the Labour Party, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, declared that “we will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome.” However, he went on to say “we will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election."

Obviously if Labour’s deal passed, this would facilitate Brexit which is why many were concerned to hear the Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon, say on the same day that “given parliament looks set to extend Article 50, there'll be further opportunities to secure support for Labour's alternative Brexit deal.” On 28 February Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said “if we do end up with a second referendum, I still believe that that does undermine trust in democracy in this country.” And, yesterday, Rebecca Long-Bailey told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that "we have got to leave all options on the table to avoid an economic catastrophe for Britain.”

Ambiguity with regard to the Labour Party’s position still remains. We are most likely to secure a People’s Vote with a clear, unequivocal commitment by all opposition parties to the cause. With this objective in mind, we would be grateful if you could clarify the following:

  1. If support were secured in the House of Commons – whether by Labour in Government or Opposition – for Labour’s alternative Brexit deal, is it party policy to put that form of Brexit and the option to stay in the EU to the electorate in a People’s Vote?
  2. Given Labour’s alternative Brexit deal was rejected by the House of Commons, will Labour now support a cross party People’s Vote amendment at the earliest opportunity and, if not, when?
  3. Will Labour frontbenchers who fail to support a People’s Vote amendment be removed from their shadow ministerial posts?

It would be a great shame if, having reportedly moved position on the need for a People’s Vote, MPs from the two main parties voted to block the electorate from having the final say on Brexit. Millions of younger voters who stand to be affected more than others and have not had their say on this disaster, expect us to ensure their voice is heard. We hope you will join us in meeting their demands.

Yours sincerely,

The Independent Group

ENDS

For further information or media bids please contact:

Stuart Macnaughtan on 07930 164 897 or [email protected]

Notes to editors

  1. Chuka Umunna, the Group’s spokesperson, is the Member of Parliament for Streatham. Chuka is a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign. He also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, which aims to find ways of bringing our different communities together.
  2. More information on The Independent Group is available at our website: https://www.theindependent.group/
  3. You can follow The Independent Group on Twitter: @TheIndGroup