Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB

9th September 2018

Open Letter to the Labour Party about their handling of "brexit" and the matter of a new referendum or "people's vote".

Keir Starmer, Labour Party's shadow "brexit" secretary  of state was quoted 23 August 2018 (a) as follows:

Asked whether his party would back a fresh vote on Brexit, he said Labour's position was first to back a meaningful vote in parliament on the deal Ms May reaches.

He went on: "If that vote is to reject the Article 50 deal, parliament must decide what happens next.

"In those circumstances it seems to me all options should be on the table. So we've not called for a vote on the deal. We've called for a vote in parliament on the deal.

"But I accept the proposition that if it's voted down parliament then decides what happens next. And in those circumstances in my experience of the last few years, keep your options on the table, not off the table." unquote

In the UK political parties seldom, if ever, support thematic (direct) democracy. Their attitude to direct rule by the people has mainly been antagonistic, sometimes opportunistic on occasions when they have, rarely, "allowed" the people to vote in an advisory referendum. This applies especially to larger political parties which strive for or have tasted the power of controlling, ruling a country. They wish to rule and not to be supervised or mandated by the rightly sovereign electorate.

In the face of "brexit", the Labour party leadership has so far retained and displayed the above sort of attitude to a referendum on the final deal. 

We ask them to re-consider their position on another "brexit" referendum, and make the following seven points and requests:

1. Please change course. At present it looks as though you are attempting to use a people's "final deal" brexit referendum as one of your tactics for the political game, a chess piece or a joker card which you would agree to use only if and when it suits your party-political considerations. You may well plead that your "considerations" have and will support the best interests of the country. But here these interest would best be served by taking the "final say" referendum out of the political process. The principle of holding a ballot on the worked out terms of exit should be fixed and placed beyond the ongoing bargaining about brexit, in the UK and with the EU.

2. The UK's relationship with the EU is of major importance for the future well-being of all the people of the UK union and its countries.

3. "#brexref2" is essential to ensure that a national decision of high quality, with optimal expression and execution of the people's wishes and will, can be made.

4. A single (weak or strong, fragmented or united) Parliament should not take this momentous decision alone but should hand the final word to the people, to the electorate in a thematic, single-issue binding ballot. 

5. For clear headed deliberation and decision-making by all those involved, our strategy for handling "brexit" should urgently be developed and planned. As far as reasonably possible a consensus via open discourse should be reached in the elected parliament, having consulted with citizens, groups and organisations. The principle of holding a decisive referendum on the "final deal" should be given priority, with the aim to express this principle soon in an act of Parliament. Time looks rather short a prolongation of the Article 50 period is only a possibility and clearly cannot be guaranteed.

6. Please respect democracy and the constitutional sovereignty of the electorate. The following shows that you intend to toy with our democratic rights:

"... Labour has made clear a new Brexit referendum is possible if parliament rejects Theresa May's agreement with the EU or if a no-deal exit is looming." It appears you suggest that the electorate might be "allowed" another brexit vote only if parliament has voted to reject the government's worked out deal with the EU. 
The people must be enabled (well in advance to permit preparation and deliberation of the issue) to take the final decision which means deciding to accept the government's ("hard or soft" or medium!) brexit proposal (one which has been accepted by the EU)  versus remaining in the EU. The binding ballot must be held after the UK's parliament and government have each given a verdict.

7. A UK general election for such an issue cannot permit the required focus and precision. A general election although unlikely might be held before we are due to leave the EU and so there could be a new government of different political hue. These events would by no means obviate the need for a UK plebiscite about "brexit". Of course the Labour Party longs for an election in order to take over from the conservatives. But in addition we all need a high quality, well-considered and deliberated referendum. So, in this case, as a Party, you CAN have your cake and eat it too!

Brief brexit background from a democratic perspective

The 2016 ballot in effect mandated the government to negotiate. Little was known about the meaning and effects of leaving the EU. The people, who gave this mandate by a narrow margin, in a partly mendacious campaign and with a gerrymandered referendum franchise (b), have a right to decide if they want to accept or reject the government's final brexit "deal". Only a new referendum can enable an effective and accurate decision about this.The most important reason for holding another "brexit" referendum is apparently not understood or is rejected by many politicians. This reason is: The electorate should be enabled to decide, in a single-issue ballot, whether the final negotiated terms and conditions for leaving the EU are acceptable or not. 

A general election covers many issues, it could not remove the need for a new referendum.


a. Joe Watts,  Political Editor Thursday 23 August 2018 The Independent.
Brexit: Labour says new referendum possible if May's deal is rejected by parliament 

b. Many UK citizens living abroad, who may justifiably fear serious negative effects of the UK leaving the EU, were denied the right to vote in the 2016 referendum. This strongly applies to people living in EU countries. (Although some reportedly support "brexit".) In Scotland for the 2014 independence referendum both sixteen-plus year olds and EU citizens were given the vote: This was not the case for the UK's "brexit" referendum.

Letter ends