After months of deadlock, on Monday night Parliament voted to take control of Brexit away from the Government.
Today we will be going through a process of “indicative votes”. This might be a normal way of doing things in just about any other walk of life but in Parliament it is novel and I wanted to share with you a few thoughts about how we shall approach these votes and what we want to achieve.
Our primary goal is clear - we want to build support for a people’s vote with the option to remain in the EU. On Saturday one million people marched into Parliament Square in support of that cause. Today Liberal Democrat MPs will take that cause one step further in the Commons Chamber.
We remain unanimous in our view that whichever option emerges must then be put to a people’s vote.
We shall expect Liberal Democrat MPs to support any amendment that makes this happen.
The two most important votes for us tonight will be:
- Margaret Beckett's amendment that calls for a people's vote; and
- Joanna Cherry's amendment that would call on the government to revoke Article 50 should we reach the day before Brexit day without a deal.
All other amendments are about what sort of Brexit we should get. Liberal Democrats do not want Brexit at all! As this process emerges we shall argue that whichever option emerges should then be put to the people in a vote against the option to remain.
As I said at the start of this article the “indicative votes” are the start of a process. That process will conclude on Monday. To use a football analogy, if this were the World Cup then today would be the group matches and then Monday will be the playoffs. The most popular (or least unpopular) choices will be pitted against each other until we reach consensus.
The choice between different sorts of Brexit is an unpalatable one for Liberal Democrats. There is no good answer to the question and a wide range of views about which is the least bad. For that reason, we shall not formally ”whip” these votes and shall allow all our MPs to reach their own judgement. We remain unanimous in our view that whichever option emerges must then be put to a people’s vote.
Last Saturday over a million people took to the streets to breath new life into the case for a people’s vote. We owe it to them to make that case our primary objective. I am determined that we shall do that. We are closer to getting a people’s vote today than we have ever been. We must not allow other considerations to distract us.