A general election will not resolve Brexit

The government is in a state of collapse. May has suffered two humiliating Parliamentary defeats in the last week and will suffer another one on Tuesday. Meanwhile Britain is in a free-fall towards a disastrous no deal crash-out on March 30th into WTO rules.

This represents a massive opportunity for Labour to take the leadership of the growing tide of opposition to Brexit under these circumstances and inflict a defeat on the Tories, from which they would struggle to recover, through a second referendum.

Unfortunately, this is still not happening. Jeremy Corbyn has repeated his call for a general election and remains vague on a second referendum.

With the Tories in crisis, a general election to get them out is necessary. But the problem is that an election does not, in itself, resolve the Brexit issue. It simply transfers it to the election campaign and to the positions that Labour takes on Brexit within it. Labour’s current position of taking over the Brexit process and completing it by negotiating a better deal with the EU than May has been able to do, is a serious problem. There has never been a left-wing Brexit possible in this process and there is not one now.

A general election is unlikely, since the assessment of the Tories from all sides of the debate is that Labour would win. A motion of no confidence is not really open to Labour either, because it would be inevitably lost, and end up giving May a propaganda boost just after her defeat. The DUP would stick with May in a confidence vote and not a single Tory MP would break ranks.

The key to the situation remains the issue that Jeremy Corbyn continues to ignore the issue of a second referendum. In the event of an election, if Labour must put an unequivocal commitment to a referendum with an option to Remain in its manifesto and campaign for Remain. If it fails to do that, Labour could alienate its core supporters to the extent that it could lose the election.

There is no guarantee that EU will agree to reopen negotiations. They have already said that they would be open to an extension of Article 50 but only in relation to an extension of the democratic process – for example if Parliament wanted more time to discuss or to organise a referendum, not to reopen negotiations on the deal itself.

The case for a second referendum is now overwhelming, and LP members and voters are massively in favour. The idea that the referendum held nearly three years ago represents informed consent for what is now on offer makes no sense. There is now a democratic case for a second referendum.

Alan Davies

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3 Comments on A general election will not resolve Brexit

  1. Bill Jameson // 13th January 2019 at 3:25 pm // Reply

    To recommend that inserting a another referendum and supporting Remain (!) are solutions to Brexit is politically bankrupt.Oppression and exploitation were intensifying before Brexit and there is no qualitative difference now.Corbyn lost the last general election because,amongst other things,he was a remainer who changed his position.Brexit is a spanner in the works for capitalists.Which class extracts it will be the winners.

  2. Labour’s front bench raised ridiculous points after losing the vote of confidence on January 16. It’s obvious that the Conservatives and DUP don’t want an early general election. Labour is still banging on about the need for a general election, but doing nothing outside parliament to increase the pressure for one. Labour doesn’t have a credible answers when it says we need a general election so Corbyn can have a go at negotiating. However, specific options can’t be spoken about. Labour’s mantra that nothing is off the table suggests that Labour has no preferred options. But it’s red lines exclude many of those options. EFTA membership leaves Norway outside the customs union, and with a hard border. Turkey’s customs union membership still leaves it with a hard border: https://www.ft.com/content/b4458652-f42d-11e6-8758-6876151821a6 Only EU membership can meet Labour’s six tests.

  3. It is necessary to give reasons why there should be a second referendum as otherwise leavers will claim that supporters of a second referendum just want a ‘second bite of the cherry’ being dissatisfied with the result of the (1st) referendum. In fact they are already saying that and this includes those, like Theresa May, who want a ‘minimal’ deal. Unless 2nd referendum supporters can come up with a reason that will convince a good slice of the leavers and others, there will be no 2nd referendum. All that I have heard so far, is the need to give the public a chance to ratify any deal, or not. This is good as far as it goes, but it can still look like an attempt to thwart the wishes of leavers and they will surely say so.

    At last night’s public London SR meeting, I attempted to give a reason, that is, that a 2nd referendum should have been built into the democratic process at the outset before the 1st referendum. Why?

    It could have been foreseen that those who would vote to leave split into 2 groups: Those who want to leave at all costs, the no-deal brexiteers or crashers out; and those who want some sort of deal, e.g., Norway, Norway plus, something like May’s deal, Corbyn’s deal. Of course, at that stage a deal couldn’t be known – it was the government’s job or parliament’s job to come up with a deal during the next year or two. In case the vote went against remain, there would be a 2nd referendum after the end of EU negotiations to decide whether the deal obtained with the EU should be accepted or whether we should remain on current terms or whether we should crash out with no deal.

    Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, has one solution to this contained in an article he wrote in the Guardian of 23/11/18 which involved 2 referendums: The 1st being remain versus leave; and, should leave win, then another referendum (2 weeks later) “would seek a verdict on the terms of the departure”. He says that Justine Greening has another solution for a single (2nd) referendum with a single transferable vote with 3 options: Remain, May’s deal and no deal. For her argument, see the Guardian of 20/11/18 or click on the link in Bogdanor’s piece.

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