The deal is dead - now it's time for a People's Vote

PUBLISHED: 21:26 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 21:26 17 May 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to Salford. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to Salford. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Remainers on the left are desperate to vote Labour, writes PATRICK MOULE. If Jeremy Corbyn wants our vote he must show he's serious about a People's Vote.

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The deal is dead. Having served its purpose of providing a pretext for the extension of Article 50, the mirage of negotiation is no longer required. The Conservative Party is safe to return to its natural state of internecine warfare, while Labour retreats into ever-less constructive ambiguity.

It needn't have been this way of course. For a few fleeting moments, it looked as though the talks might have yielded something useful - if not immediately a People's Vote, then at least a new deal, something less toxic than Theresa May's thrice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement. A genuine, workable proposal for Parliament to vote on and have the opportunity to put back to the people. But it wasn't to be.

Labour (or least Keir Starmer MP), to give them their due, appeared at times to engage with the process sincerely. The Government's perpetual near collapse and intransigence, exemplified by a failure to agree to even a permanent customs union, let alone freedom of movement or a People's Vote, swiftly put an end to that.

Starmer's public recognition of the Parliamentary arithmetic, that no deal would get past his own ranks in the Commons unless a new referendum came attached, were a sure sign that this sorry chapter in the Brexit saga was finally coming to a close. As the calamitous local election results and the ever-more alarming opinion polls confirmed for both sides, these were discussions that had outlived their usefulness.

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Labour were right to engage. Parliament needs a fresh deal to consider, and should a People's Vote ever come to pass, our democracy deserves more than May's zombie deal on the ballot paper. The Prime Minister could never explicitly agree to take the matter back to the people, but the optimists amongst us could at least hold out for the possibility of her hand - and Jeremy Corbyn's - being forced by an exasperated House of Commons.

Sadly, that delusion was brutally exposed by the revelation that the pair have held secret talks to deny Parliament a say on a referendum and take the country out of the EU by the end of July. For the Conservatives, having committed unambiguously to the Leave cause, this makes a sort of sense. If they can ride out the Farage storm and swiftly secure the exit they so desperately need to prevent their base further fragmenting then, well - why not? They really have nothing else to lose. But for Labour and indeed the country, this was a calamitous error of judgement.

Contrary to a narrative pursued by a narrow band of backbenchers and Lexiters, Labour's core vote - even in so-called 'Leave' areas - is firmly and increasingly Remain. It is almost astonishing how united Labour's members, voters and supporters are in favour of a public vote on any agreed Brexit Deal. Little wonder then that faced with a party leadership who appear perversely determined to prop up an ailing Tory leader, Labour's voters are deserting it in droves. As for their loyal activists, what could be more dispiriting than the discovery that your party's leader is working with a Prime Minister who brought us the hostile environment and whose unending commitment to austerity has brought our public services to their knees?

Labour's members and its supporters deserve better. Despite the disappointments of recent months there's still time to turn the ship around and salvage a good result, not just for Labour, but for the Remain cause as a whole next Thursday. One of the enduring strengths of the Labour Party is that a great many people always want to put their faith in it - even when it's let them down. Remainers on the left are desperate for permission to vote Labour - not just through gritted teeth, but head and heart. Jeremy Corbyn only needs to say the word.

- Patrick Moule is a For Our Future's Sake supporter and Labour Party activist

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