Labour activists renew battle over Brexit via local party motions

8th January, 2019 12:56 pm

Another Europe is Possible/Jess Hurd

Another Europe is Possible

Over 200 local Labour parties are set to debate an anti-Brexit motion organised by left-wing group Another Europe is Possible by the end of the month, and campaigners hope that a majority will pass.

The motion resolves to strengthen the Labour Party policy position in opposition to  Brexit in a number of ways, resolving:

  1. That all Labour MPs must vote against the Tory Brexit deal.
  2. That Labour must demand, and to prepare for, an immediate general election.
  3. That Labour must campaign for a public vote on Brexit with an option to remain, and include such a vote in our manifesto.
  4. To notify the NEC, NPF and party leadership of this motion’s passing.
  5. To make this policy part of our doorstep and street activity, and to contact Another Europe is Possible for materials and assistance in campaigning.
  6. To welcome the letter similar to this motion published by Labour activists in the Guardian on 10 December, calling for the creation of a campaigning  network for these goals, and will cooperate in that project, adding our name to the letter.
  7. To support calls for a half-day emergency conference so that members can clearly decide Labour’s Brexit policy.

After rallying party members in the run-up to conference in September, which saw over 100 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) submit motions in favour of a fresh EU referendum, Another Europe is Possible has been phonebanking activists with the aim of coordinating efforts to make members’ pro-EU views heard within Labour.

Commenting on the new motion, organiser Ana Oppenheim said: “The appetite at the grassroots to take a clear stand against Brexit is overwhelming. As the sequence of events unfolds in parliament, we need to look a the reality. Brexit is an attack on working class people, dripping with imperial nostalgia and migrant-bashing. If Labour fails to oppose it, we will lose millions of voters…

“More and more, party activists, especially on the left, are seeing this clearly. By the end of January, we reckon that a majority of CLPs could have debated a motion – and a big majority will pass it.”

Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

Meanwhile, left-wing group the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy has launched a defence of the Brexit composite motion passed at Labour conference, which vowed to “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”, though only after trying and failing to secure a general election.

Peter Willsman, CLPD secretary and member of Labour’s national executive committee, commented: “We believe it is important that CLPs defend Labour’s conference policy on the Brexit negotiations and support our party leadership, which is implementing this agreed policy. We would also urge CLPs to reject the proposals to overturn conference policy.”

The organisation, which has clashed with fellow Corbynite group Momentum on several issues over the last few months, has drawn up a model motion for CLPs to debate and approve. It argues that pressure being exerted on the party to immediately back a fresh public vote on EU membership would “overturn” existing Labour policy.

“We commend the party leadership for making people’s jobs and living standards the priority concern informing its tactics on this issue,” the motion concludes, after describing a general election and resulting Labour government as the “best outcome”.

Momentum

Although Momentum used to be a battleground for disagreements between those for and against the Labour leadership’s Brexit stance, the group has largely distanced itself from the debate. At party conference, it had no formal position on Brexit, and only afterwards undertook a consultation of its members.

Momentum’s survey showed that 41% of its members support a ‘people’s vote’ in “all circumstances”, while only 17% said they did not want another Brexit referendum at all. 92% of respondents said they wanted all Labour MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

AEIP organiser Michael Chessum, who worked on Jeremy Corbyn’s 2016 leadership campaign, interpreted the results as proof that “the activist base of the Labour left is overwhelmingly in favour of a fresh referendum if no general election can happen”. He commented at the time: “There is simply no excuse – either for Labour as a whole, or for individual Labour MPs – not to oppose this agenda and give the people a final say.”

Other activities

In December, an open letter with 250 signatories calling for an emergency party conference was sent to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby and the NEC. LabourList understands that the Labour member who sent the letter has not received acknowledgement or response from any NEC members. The same activist has now launched an online petition demanding a special conference on Brexit to “clarify and adjust” party policy, which has gathered almost 3,500 signatures from party members.

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