Letter from Hamish Sandison, Chair of Labour Business to the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party
Chair of Labour Business Hamish Sandison has written again to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to follow up our support at Labour’s Annual Conference for a public vote. Our key message is that members of Labour Business – and business leaders we talk to more widely - want Brexit to be resolved sooner rather than later in order to minimise the economic damage caused to jobs and investment by continuing Brexit uncertainty. For that reason, among others, we are urging Labour to call a public vote first, followed by a general election.
09 October 2019
Positioning Labour to lead the next UK government
We congratulate you on calling out the Johnson Brexit plan as a threat to peace in Northern Ireland in your reply to his statement in the House last Thursday. We are writing on behalf of Labour Business members to suggest ways in which you can now act to protect jobs, workers’ rights and businesses in the run up to the next general election.
Johnson's plan is a vivid reminder that there is no way the vote to leave the EU in June 2016 can be delivered with a Tory/DUP Brexit – let alone a No Deal Brexit - while ensuring the Good Friday Agreement remains intact.
We hope on behalf of Labour Business members that you will use the coming days to optimise Labour's chances of forming the next government.
We don't think you have been given proper public recognition for your role in delivering the Church House Agreement with other opposition party leaders and rebel Conservatives. That enabled the successful passage of the EU Withdrawal (No. 2) Act (“the Benn Act”).
Your determination to stop a No Deal Brexit is exactly what the vast majority of businesses want; and as you know from our previous letters, that is exactly what Labour Business members want too. This leads us to the outcome of Brexit deliberations at Annual Conference last month. We are struggling to reconcile your determination to stop a No Deal Brexit with pressing for a general election first.
Brexit is still the defining issue of the day, crossing party lines and drowning out policy promises on both sides. This makes the polling predictions for another hung Parliament very plausible – extending the uncertainty in 2020 and beyond. Brexit may be a Tory invention, but it has become Labour’s Achilles' Heel. While Brexit dominates, our transformational agenda is effectively on mute.
Meanwhile, as our members tell us, the failure to resolve Brexit is causing daily damage to jobs, businesses and investment in the UK. The sooner Brexit is resolved, one way or another, the sooner this damaging economic uncertainty can be ended. With the best will in the world, a strategy of holding a general election before a public vote, rather than the other way around, will take much longer to resolve the Brexit uncertainty – needlessly prolonging the damage to our economy.
Surely, the country needs a leader that put the needs of its citizens, communities and businesses ahead of party allegiances. That moment has arrived.
What is required, we believe, is a “Rebel Alliance Mark 2” to seize the moment for resolving Brexit. And for Labour, as Conference unambiguously resolved, that means letting the public decide through a binding referendum. This is in stark contrast to the LibDems’ position to deny the 2016 Referendum result and seek to Revoke Article 50.
Giving the final decision back to the people of a “sensible” deal versus Remain, before a general election, is the only way to secure a mandate for the way forward for our citizens, communities and businesses. It positions us as the true democrats and enables us to showcase Labour’s ability to lead.
Your political decency is widely appreciated. You don't indulge in bad-mouthing your political opponents. Whatever your views about the EU Referendum at the time, the reality NOW is that NO-ONE can deliver the option to “Leave the EU” without either massive damage to jobs and investment, or by “Brexit in Name Only” – staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union, but losing our political voice.
To resolve Brexit, the Rebel Alliance must be revived with an agreed interim leader, an interim governmental programme to vote Johnson out, and a commitment to hold a PV, implement the outcome and call a general election.
Now that the Party is behind you in committing to a PV, the unresolved issues are:
- what will be on the PV ballot paper and
- who will be entitled to vote?
The fantasy of a No Deal option on the ballot paper ought to be easily dismissed by an interim government armed with the full details of the current government's own assessments. Instead, as part of the Rebel Alliance 2, we hope you will work to ensure that there are two questions on the ballot paper – Remain versus a sensible deal - and that the questions are balanced and simple.
Giving the final decision back to the people, before a general election, is the only way to secure a mandate for the way forward for our citizens, communities and businesses. It positions us as the true democrats and enables us to showcase Labour’s ability to lead.
As Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson wrote in the Independent newspaper (4 October): “Our proposal of a final say referendum on any deal is designed to deliver that consent and to avoid unnecessary polarisation. The real choice can and should be between any proposed deal that the EU itself will accept and our current deal as full members of the EU.”
We understand that may mean incorporating the issues embedded in the cross-party talks between Conservatives and Labour in the dying days of the May government concerning workers’ rights, environmental protection and consumer rights. They can be dealt with in the legislation to enable a PV to take place.
In the preliminaries, hopefully already in hand, we hope Labour is committed to enable 16/17 year olds, EU citizens in the UK, and more UK citizens living abroad to have their say, denied by the Conservatives in 2016.
Finally, there is a question of your own role in the Rebel Alliance 2. We hope that the leaders of the other opposition parties will (albeit reluctantly) acknowledge your role in having stopped a No Deal Brexit so far. But if one or more of them were really digging in their heels, then we would encourage you to step aside in favour of a mutually agreed interim prime minister. The real prize is not who becomes interim prime minister, but rather it is to free people from Brexit anxiety and enable a general election that will rebuild and reinvigorate this country for the future through a majority Labour government led by yourself.