Over 200 Labour councillors call on Corbyn to support a ‘people’s vote’

Over 200 elected Labour officials have written an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn calling on him to support a ‘people’s vote’.

Organised by the pressure group Labour for a People’s Vote, hundreds of Labour representatives – including councillors and assembly members – have told the Labour leader that a fresh EU referendum is “absolutely necessary”, if not “risk-free”.

“An extension of Article 50 can be secured and Labour should ensure May’s deal can only be implemented if supported during a new referendum. The alternative option in that referendum should be for Britain to stay in the EU,” the letter reads.

Signatories include council leaders Lib Peck, Debbie Wilcox and Steve Cowan; Fleur Anderson, recently selected as the next parliamentary candidate in Putney; London assembly member Tom Copley; and directly-elected mayor Phil Glanville.

Mike Buckley, director of Labour for a People’s Vote, commented: “Labour councillors listen to their constituents every day and hear their concerns about how Brexit could affect their lives. They know that people are worried about their jobs, local public services and their children’s futures if Brexit goes ahead.

“Their call today for a public vote on the Brexit deal shows that this is an issue of national concern, and one that can only be dealt with by a national public vote on the government deal against our current deal as members of the EU. Only the Labour Party is in a position to make the case for this vote in parliament, and to win it in the country. It’s time that we took the initiative and led the call for a People’s Vote.”

Below is the full text of the open letter.

Dear Jeremy,

As local councillors we wish to add our names to the growing number of Labour party members supporting a People’s Vote.

Local government has borne the brunt of Tory spending cuts since 2010. Without question, voters’ anger at years of austerity played a part in the victory of the Leave campaign in 2016. Yet a dire situation has been made even worse by the Brexit vote. Businesses have delayed investment decisions and relocated staff overseas. High inflation has further impoverished millions already struggling to make ends meet. Most galling of all, Brexit has consumed government attention at a time when reforms and funding are urgently needed to restore a crumbling public realm.

Theresa May’s deal bears almost no resemblance to the version of Brexit voters were sold during the 2016 referendum campaign. Far from allowing the British people to “take back control”, it hands greater control to the European Union. We applaud Labour MPs preparing to vote down the deal in parliament and welcome your clear leadership in this regard.

If May’s deal is defeated, what comes next? To be sure, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place, austerity will continue – extending and worsening the misery excessive spending cuts have inflicted on millions of people. It is the height of irresponsibility to point to the upsides of a no-deal Brexit. They do not exist. Labour must kill the notion that an economic downturn is a price worth paying to restore an ill-defined concept of “sovereignty” at an unspecified future time.

The deal before parliament is far worse than the deal we currently enjoy inside the EU. It satisfies no one. And the alternative of a no-deal Brexit is such a grotesque proposition it must be ruled out. At the same time, EU negotiators have made it clear that renegotiating a new bespoke deal is out of the question. A general election is needed, to restore our public realm and address the structural inequalities in our economy. But there is no hope of achieving these aims if Brexit consumes as much political attention in the coming years as it has done since 2016.

A new referendum is not a risk-free option, but it is absolutely necessary. An extension of Article 50 can be secured and Labour should ensure May’s deal can only be implemented if supported during a new referendum. The alternative option in that referendum should be for Britain to stay in the EU.

We therefore call on the Labour party to formally support a People’s Vote, including the option for the UK to remain full EU members. It is the only way out of the Brexit impasse and the best way to open up the political space for Labour to bring about the transformative reforms our country so desperately needs.

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