Exclusive: Keep your promise on Brexit, conference delegates tell Corbyn

Sienna Rodgers

30 Labour activists who helped shape the Brexit composite motion at conference have written to Jeremy Corbyn demanding that he follow agreed party policy, LabourList can reveal.

The letter warns the Labour leader that in recent interviews his “answers were not aligned with party policy”, and calls on him to reflect the “commitment to party democracy” shown by pro-EU party activists who have themselves compromised on Brexit.

The signatories were all delegates from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and affiliated socialist societies that submitted contemporary motions on Brexit, who were therefore in the six-hour compositing meeting at conference deciding party policy.

As the letter highlights, Labour’s Brexit composite motion passed by conference in September includes a commitment to “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote” should the party not be able to secure a general election.

Yet the 30 conference delegates say Corbyn has repeatedly expressed views that run contrary to that pledge. They complain that the leader told Der Spiegel “we can’t stop Brexit”, said he disagreed with Jo Johnson’s call for another referendum, and gave answers to Sky’s Sophy Ridge that were not in line with Labour policy.

Agreed Labour policy also dictates that the party endorses a future relationship with the EU that “guarantees full participation in the single market”. However, the letter points out that Corbyn’s CBI speech only went so far as to call for a “strong single market relationship”.

The letter concludes that Labour must engage in “straight talking, honest politics”, all MPs should “support every element of the party’s Brexit policy” and Corbyn should “champion” the commitments made at party conference.

Below is the letter sent to Jeremy Corbyn in full.

Dear Jeremy,

We are delegates from among the large number of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and Socialist Societies which submitted contemporary motions on Brexit to our Party Conference in September. This year’s conference received the highest number of contemporary motions on a single issue in the 118-year history of the Labour Party. The majority of these motions called on the Labour Party to support a public vote on Brexit.

Representing our CLPs from across the country and our societies, we debated and deliberated for more than six hours in the historic Brexit compositing meeting. Late into the night, via the democratic structures of our party, we came together and agreed the composite motion on which we had consensus. As you know, this motion was then passed overwhelmingly by delegates on the floor of Conference, making it Labour Party policy.

The policy stipulates that if the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal Agreement does not pass Labour’s six texts, Labour MPs must vote against it. Furthermore, if it is voted down in Parliament and there is no immediate general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. As Sir Keir Starmer told delegates at Conference, all options includes the option to Remain in the EU. The policy goes on to say that if the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from, they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.

You promised that the Labour Party leadership would comply with the policy agreed by our members at conference. We were therefore dismayed to read in an interview in Der Spiegel earlier this month that you had said “we can’t stop Brexit”. The Prime Minister herself has said that, if her deal is not passed by Parliament, there could be no Brexit. Parliament is sovereign. Brexit can be stopped. You were also quoted on the BBC website as having said you didn’t agree with calls for another referendum in a story about Jo Johnson’s resignation (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46162114). On Sky’s Ridge programme on Sunday, despite several questions on this very specific topic, your answers were not aligned with party policy in relation to the option of campaigning for a public vote if there isn’t a General Election.

We very much welcome the inclusion in your speech to the CBI’s annual conference on Monday that if we are unsuccessful in getting a General Election, then all options remain on the table including a public vote. However, you went on to say that a sensible deal must guarantee “a strong single market relationship” when our policy states that the party “believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market”.

Not all of those in the compositing meeting agreed wholeheartedly with the position eventually arrived at, many felt it did not go far enough. However, we are a democratic party, and, as delegates, it was our duty to represent our local CLPs and societies and to reach a consensus. Are we wrong to expect the same commitment to party democracy shown by delegates at conference to be shown by the Leader of the Labour Party and our front bench?

Jeremy, you have always been a passionate advocate for party democracy. Ensuring that policy- making is led by members was the cornerstone of your two successful leadership campaigns. It is also a key element of the party’s Democracy Review. The democratically decided policy of our Party on Brexit must have the unwavering support of our Leader.

This Tory Government is in crisis and is tearing itself apart, putting at risk the livelihoods of the people our party was formed to represent, the NHS our party created, freedom of movement and the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland in which our party played such a pivotal role. In contrast to this failing Government, Labour should be absolutely united across our broad church that Brexit will do very great harm to our country and, in particular, to our young people.

This really is a time for straight talking, honest politics. You and every single Labour MP must support every element of the party’s Brexit policy. The Tory Brexit deal fails Labour’s six tests, therefore Labour must vote against it. If no general election is immediately forthcoming, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote with the option to Remain in the EU.

We trust that you will keep your promise and champion Labour’s agreed policy on Brexit. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this in person and look forward to hearing from you.

In solidarity,

Fiona O’Farrell – Richmond Park CLP
Ellie James – Leeds North West CLP
Robbie Young – LGBT Labour
Aurelio Petrucci – Newcastle Central CLP
Leanora Headley – Witham CLP
Margaret Mills – Orpington CLP
Samantha Townsend – Bishop Auckland CLP
Scarlett Conway – Lancaster and Fleetwood CLP
Phil Brickell – Wythenshawe and Sale East CLP
James Roberts – Harrogate and Knaresborough CLP
Eileen Means – Bristol West CLP
Ruth Milton – Sheffield Hallam CLP
Laura Evans Vogel – Bromley and Chislehurst CLP
Barbara Pezzini – Maidstone and the Weald CLP
James Hamilton – Bromley and Chislehurst CLP
Mike Vessey – Chelsea and Fulham CLP
Edward Jones – Richmond Park CLP
Martin Whelton – Labour Party Irish Society
Sam Swift – Walthamstow CLP
Octavia Holland – Lewisham East CLP
Anashua Davies – Old Bexley and Sidcup CLP
Matthew Case Legge – Old Bexley and Sidcup CLP
Sam Talbot – Walthamstow CLP
Pauline Dall – Lewisham East CLP
Jessica Leschnikoff – Maidstone and the Weald CLP
Paul Wilkinson – Gedling CLP
Dermot McKibbin – Beckenham CLP
Rick Gaehl – Totnes CLP
Malcolm Fincken – Braintree CLP
Charlotte Rowley – York Central CLP

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