The country is tired of Brexit, and so are we. Our national politics has become saturated with process and horse-trading, while our public services have been run into the ground and the planet is boiling. MPs have a duty to find a solution to this crisis, with just 16 days between now and the cliff-edge. Last night’s indicative votes were, hopefully, the beginning of the end of the impasse, with parliament taking control of the process.
What last night’s votes demonstrated was that no Brexit option has a majority in parliament. To get an agreement of some kind, we are going to need two things: more time to debate the way forward, and a public vote. We used to regard the Kyle-Wilson amendment as a means of putting Theresa May’s deal to a public vote. After the Speaker’s rulings and its showing in the first two meaningful votes, any attempt to bring back that deal is going to feel like resuscitating a corpse. It is clear that any deal or plan must be subject to the same basic principle: it needs to go back to the people.
Last night, Jeremy Corbyn led Labour in backing a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal. We need Labour to stay focused and united behind this strategy. It is our route to stopping the Tory government’s disastrous Brexit and to bringing down the government itself. If we are able to secure a referendum and then win it, Labour will have the chance to ride into power on the crest of a new progressive wave in British politics, battering back the racist lies of right-wing Brexiteers and making the case for an economy that serves the many.
But this isn’t just about parliamentary majorities, or Labour’s wider prospects. It is a straightforward question of democratic principle. While it’s good that we could be able to find a way out of the Brexit chaos in the coming days, we also have to be clear that none of the possible options have a public mandate. We cannot have parliament panic-buying a Brexit deal with just weeks to go, with no public debate or vote. The people deserve the final say.
The people are also demanding a say. This Saturday, we took part in one of the biggest demonstrations in British history. As part of the ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ group of Labour MPs, we were proud to march with the left bloc and speak at the accompanying rally alongside labour movement activists, climate strikers and migrants’ rights campaigners. We marched surrounded by Labour Party banners and placards calling not just for a final say on Brexit, but also for a transformation of society.
We know that these are the radical politics shared by an overwhelming majority of Labour members and supporters. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015, these ideas have rightly been put back at the heart of our politics. But stopping Brexit is a crucial part of our task if we are to stop the right and build that progressive wave that is needed to see our politics become a reality.
Brexit, if it happens, would be a massive step backwards for the left, threatening our rights and the livelihoods of the people Labour was founded to represent. From the start, it was a right-wing project driven by a nationalist agenda and backed by free market fundamentalists. Our party has nothing to gain from enabling it, and neither do our communities. Instead of tinkering around the edges and settling for damage limitation, we must be where the movement is: doing all we can to prevent a catastrophic Brexit from happening while putting forward a radical economic programme that can bring our country back together.
The next couple of weeks will be full of complex parliamentary process, much of it unprecedented. But we cannot afford to get lost in technicalities. We need to be clear, absolutely clear, about the simple principle: the people must have a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal.