At least 61 Constituency Labour Parties have voted to send anti-Brexit motions to party conference this year, according to campaign group Another Europe is Possible, which worked with Open Labour and Labour for a Socialist Europe to promote a drafted proposal.
The final version of the model motion distributed by those organisations – titled “Stop Brexit, Transform Britain and Europe” – would see Labour commit to campaigning “energetically for a public vote and to Remain” and to “revoking Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal”.
Labour’s Brexit policy currently stops short of advocating a Remain position in the referendum that it has promised to hold if in government after the next general election. It also plans to renegotiate Theresa May’s Brexit deal to offer an improved one to the public.
Tom Watson and many other Labour MPs say the party should have a clear position on whether it would back Remain or its own Leave option before the likely early election. It is argued by critics that the current policy is unclear.
Some Labour Remainers also want the party to abandon its intention to renegotiate May’s deal. National organiser for AEIP Michael Chessum said: “The public wants this to be over – any sense that we are going to engage in a lengthy renegotiation will be deeply unpopular.”
But affiliated trade unions have collectively decided that Labour’s stance should be dependent on the quality of its own negotiated deal. The plan, termed ‘TULO 2’, was agreed at a crunch meeting in July and reconfirmed at TUC congress earlier this week.
The possibility that the Labour leadership could remain neutral in the proposed referendum, or allow everyone including frontbenchers to choose a side freely as in 1975, has not yet been excluded.
However, this could all change at Labour conference, being held in Brighton from Saturday 21st September to Wednesday 18th. The final decision will likely be made at a composite meeting attended by party and union delegates, and chaired by Keir Starmer.
Shadow cabinet members Starmer, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry have all said that they would endorse Remain in a fresh EU referendum. The Love Socialism group of MPs – which includes shadow ministers such as Clive Lewis – have also organised to apply pressure on the leadership.
Last year, over a hundred anti-Brexit motions were sent to conference, which produced the composite motion that dominated rows for months afterwards. It pledged that Labour would “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote” – but only if it couldn’t secure an early election. The party now unequivocally backs another referendum under any circumstances.
Another Europe is Possible organiser Ana Oppenheim commented: “We’ve phonebanked thousands of members all over the country since June. The strength of anti-Brexit feeling at the grassroots of the labour movement is uncontainable, and is growing… There is no way that we, or delegates from CLPs, will accept a slightly-better fudge as happened last year. We will take a Remain position to a vote on conference floor.”
The deadline for local parties wanting to submit conference motions was 12pm on September 12th. Each CLP could only send one motion to be considered by Labour’s highest policy-making body.
Through phone banking, AEIP found 61 CLPs who voted in favour of any kind of anti-Brexit conference motion, though some of these may not have sent the submission on time. Official figures have not yet been released.
The campaign with the highest number of submission is expected to be Labour for a Green New Deal, which has been pushing a motion that would compel the party to back a net-zero carbon emissions target of 2030 rather than 2050.