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8 February 2019

Why not everyone in the People’s Vote campaign is angry with Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit letter

The Labour leader’s plans are credible, serious, and could shut off any hope of remaining. But not every pro-referendum MP sees it that way. 

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit proposals are bad news for anyone who wants to undo the 2016 referendum result for the same reason they have been welcomed by European politicians: they are serious, achievable, and are acceptable both to the European Union and to a majority in the Houses of Parliament.

At least, that’s the theory. That’s in part why some supporters of another Brexit vote have loudly criticised the proposals. (Another subplot, as I explain in my column this week, is that some Labour MPs have decided that they cannot remain in the Labour party and are seeking to finesse their exit.)

But not every MP who supports the People’s Vote campaign believes that Corbyn’s proposals are the end of the road for their dream.

Why not? Because they don’t think that these plans will actually be able to secure a majority in parliament either. One pro-referendum MP described them as “credible, serious, and doomed”. Their reasoning is that Corbyn’s proposals are soft enough that they won’t be able to command the support of the seven Labour Leavers, and may also shed votes from the party’s Inbetweeners – Labour MPs who voted to Remain but whose seats are heavily Leave who have been reluctant to vote for measures that soften or stop Brexit – but won’t be able to count on support from enough pro-European Conservatives to cancel that out.

As I’ve explained before, it is difficult for the SNP to back any form of Brexit as it means disarming what many of that party’s MPs believe is a very powerful tool: the argument that Brexit is a disaster being inflicted on Scotland by England.

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At that point, these second referendumers believe, parliament will have rejected every possible flavour of negotiable Brexit – and the option of throwing it back to the people to decide will once again swing back into vogue.