50 local Labour parties set to send anti-Brexit motions to conference

Sienna Rodgers
© Another Europe is Possible/Jess Hurd

50 Constituency Labour Parties are set to send anti-Brexit motions – of various iterations, though mostly based on the model promoted and drafted by Another Europe is Possible, Open Labour and Labour for a Socialist Europe – to party conference in September.

The latest figure comes from the AEIP campaign itself, which has revealed that dozens of local parties will put forward a motion demanding that Labour “campaign energetically for a public vote and to Remain” and “support revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal” ahead of the meeting of Labour’s highest policy-making body.

Labour’s pro-Remain activists have organised phonebanks, contacting thousands of party members, and run meetings advancing a “Remain, Reform, Revolt” message. They have been backed by the Love Socialism group of MPs, which recently held a meeting attended by several shadow cabinet members including Diane Abbott.

192 parties have yet to inform AEIP which motion they are sending to conference. Some of these CLPs may have not had their meetings yet, and could still send the pro-Remain motion, but it is not expected that a majority of those currently undeclared will ultimately submit an anti-Brexit motion.

Last year, over 100 CLPs submitted motions in favour of another referendum. It seems likely that the number of anti-Brexit motions will be lower this year, despite no deal being imminent under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This could be because it is perceived that the leadership has already shifted decisively towards a Remain stance, or due to the greater grassroots focus on other policy issues.

The most popular subject for motions this year appears to be a ‘green new deal’, or ‘green industrial revolution’ as the Labour leadership has termed it. Around 70 CLPs have voted to send Labour for a Green New Deal’s motion to conference, according to campaign co-founder Clare Hymer. This would commit Labour to setting an earlier net-zero carbon emissions target – 2030 rather than 2050.

This week, a new campaign was launched that could present a challenge to Another Europe and other pro-EU organisations, as its advocates support a left-wing form of Brexit. Leave Fight Transform, or ‘LeFT’, published a founding statement in the Morning Star over the weekend and wrote an article for LabourList on Monday. But no ‘Lexit’ conference motions have been organised.

Each local party is entitled to send either one policy motion or one rule change proposal to conference. Momentum, the influential campaign group on the Labour left, has recommended 10 policy motions – including GND, a four-day working week and Labour Against Racism and Fascism’s closure of all detention centres pledge. None relate to Brexit.

CLPs have until September 12th at noon to submit their policy motion to Labour conference. The deadline for emergency motions – pertaining to issues arising after the 12th – is September 19th. This year, following changes approved by conference in 2018, a total of twenty motions can be debated, with ten coming from CLPs and ten from affiliates.

There is some concern among party activists that an early general election could be called before Labour conference in the third week of September, which would see conference season cancelled. In such a situation, Labour policy would be decided by the ‘Clause V’ meeting made up of the shadow cabinet and members of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that Labour would back a referendum on any Brexit deal, but has not confirmed whether the party would support Remain or its own deal should it have the opportunity to negotiate one.

At the recent meeting in parliament of Love Socialism MPs and supporters, Emily Thornberry confirmed her support for a public vote and Remain – whether before or after an election. The Shadow Foreign Secretary told the meeting: “No matter what deal is on the table, and which party has negotiated it, our position must be to remain in the EU and oppose any form of Brexit.”

Labour is not a ‘Remain party’ yet, but could be forced to become one in all circumstances if conference passes an anti-Brexit motion to that effect as expected.

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