All options are on the table. Some commentators and members are surprised – or perhaps just disappointed – that this remains the case: they expected that the twice-defeated Labour Brexit deal would be shelved by the party once support for another EU referendum was declared. But the leadership has made it clear all along that it is still looking to push for an alternative that involves leaving the EU (although also willing to whip for a public vote). The main reasons are two-fold: it is opposed to the idea, on ideological and electoral grounds; and it knows that a second public vote proposal is unlikely to pass in the Commons. Jeremy Corbyn has written in The Mirror today that “getting Brexit right” is his focus.
As well as publicly campaigning for “Our Alternative”, LabourList understands that the leader’s office has been quietly working with the Common Market 2.0 group to draft a new Brexit amendment. Made up of Labour’s Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock, plus Nick Boles, Oliver Letwin and Robert Halfon from the Tories, this cross-party initiative has been campaigning for a deal consisting of single market membership and a new customs arrangement. They say it meets Labour’s six tests and only requires changes to the political declaration in Theresa May’s deal.
It’s not Labour’s plan, but it’s not stopping Brexit either. And it is thought more likely to be able to win a majority. Members of CM2.0 think that once the “decks are cleared” – i.e. MPs have voted down a new referendum and May’s deal has been defeated twice – their plan will start to win more support on both sides of the House. Yesterday these moves from the Labour leadership towards a Norway-style deal became public as Corbyn met with members of the group to discuss their ideas. He left it “more certain than ever that we can find a way to work across parliament to force the government to back a sensible Brexit plan”, according to his Mirror op-ed.
People’s Vote campaigners aren’t happy, of course, and say such moves contradict the conference policy agreed in September. But others contend that the composite motion – which promised “full participation in the single market” – is actually more in line with the ‘Norway Plus’ group plan than anything else. And the leadership is keen to point out that avoiding ‘no deal’ is the priority, and if a fresh public vote proposal has no chance of securing a Commons majority, isn’t backing a softer Brexit the only way to do that? Nonetheless, Clive Lewis – who is still a shadow minister – has called the latest strategy a “grave error”. PV-ers are determined not to back any kind of Brexit now. But with around 30 on the Labour benches prepared to defy the whip to vote against PV, it will be interesting to see whether that changes. If the mood does shift after their preferred plan of another public vote is substantially defeated next week, Common Market 2.0 could be the future of Brexit. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.