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Did Remainers want a "people's vote"?

The sovereignty of parliament is at the heart of the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom.  It is the key element of our democracy as it has evolved.  We elect our representatives to hold the government to account, and the government is accountable to parliament for its actions.   Parliament is our legislative body.  Governments are formed from parliament and are answerable to it.

This is not an invention to thwart Brexit.  It is how our democracy works.  At the last election, all the major parties campaigned accepting the vote to leave in the EU referendum, but they also were committed in their manifestos to doing so with a deal that would protect jobs and our security.   The majority voted for parties committed to a Brexit deal.  Labour's was a customs arrangement and alignment with the single market.   The LibDems offered a similar approach.

Accepting the EU referendum result and outlining the type of arrangement we would have with the EU was a sensible approach.  Even for the Tory party, leaving without a deal was considered only as a solution if an agreement could not be made.

Hardened Brexiteers often tell us that they voted to Leave "deal or no deal."  There is some truth in that.  During the referendum, few offered up any kind of alternative arrangement to membership of the EU.  In part, this was because little thought had been given to it.   Yet, before the referendum, even Nigel Farage had suggested that we could have some kind of customs arrangement.  It is only recently that he abandoned such a position.  Whatever else they voted for or against, voters were not presented with the shape of a deal.

Hardline remainers have since entrenched their position.  The country has become more polarised in what they see as a binary, in/out, issue.   As Mrs May's government stumbled and faltered, instead of looking for a deal, these remainers saw it as an opportunity to stop Brexit.   So much so that they abandoned the idea of supporting a deal for a soft Brexit.  They attacked Labour for wanting a deal. The government they hoped would fail, and Brexit stopped.

The polarisation is why parliament failed to find agreement on the way forward, voting down the alternatives.  Mrs May's deal - defeated.  Labour's customs union - defeated; even another referendum failed to receive sufficient votes.  Parliament was at an impasse.  Mrs May resigned, and now we have Boris Johnson and the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal.

This situation is as much the fault of remain as it is of leave.  Mrs May refused to find a compromise with Labour.  The LibDems refuse to back Corbyn.  It is rightly said that Parliament has said what it doesn't want, but cannot say what it does want.

Corbyn has been heavily criticised on all sides.  Yet, he has the most consistent of positions.  He stuck to the Labour manifesto commitment to 1) honour the referendum result; 2) negotiate a customs union; 3) and, now at least, to put such a deal back to the people.  It is the most sensible of strategies, even though it might lose him the next election.  Remainers may flood to the LibDems and divide the vote in some vain hope of stopping Brexit. Yet they might find Boris Johnson back in Downing Street taking us out without a deal.

I recall a time when so many remainers were calling for a 'people's vote'.  Well, Labour is now the only major party committed to giving a people's vote. It is also the only party to offer a deal. It is difficult to have a "people's vote" without a deal.

Corbyn is right not to commit to remaining regardless of any possible deal.  A deal should be negotiated with faith, seeking the best possible outcome.   It would be cynical to offer a deal to a people's vote that does not have credibility.   Did remainers want a "people's vote" or did they only support it in order to thwart Brexit?  I wonder.


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