Philip Hammond talks about second referendum while Corbyn approves “unholy alliance” to deliver Brexit

There’s some interesting nuggets in the Sunday Times reports on the Brexit chaos and ongoing shenanigans. It’s not the headlines, which are about the Royal Family being moved out of London if there are no deal riots, or the supposed new party to be formed on Valentine’s Day as Labour MPs resign the whip. It’s what else is in the article.

Earlier this week, Christine Jardine talked about the Labour Party became the “handmaids of Brexit” after their votes blocked Yvette Cooper’s amendment and helped pass Graham Brady’s time-wasting one calling for unicorns on the Irish border. Well maybe unicorns weren’t explicitly mentioned, but it all amounts to the same thing.

Labour’s role in facilitating Brexit was highlighted in an article in the Sunday Times today. Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler wrote(£) about how

An “unholy alliance” has formed to force through a deal consisting of May’s allies, a member of the shadow cabinet, the trade unions and Labour MPs, with Jeremy Corbyn’s tacit approval.

A recent poll suggested that Liberal Democrat support would go way up, even overtaking Labour, if Corbyn’s party helped deliver Brexit.

Corbyn looks increasingly unlikely to back the People’s Vote that the majority of his party’s member’s want. Labour membership data for Scotland, leaked to the Herald shows that Labour has lost 20% of its members north of the border. The fall in Edinburgh, a strongly Remain city in a strongly Remain country, is spectacular.

The other interesting bit of information is that Philip Hammond, who really can’t be getting much sleep when he crunches the numbers, has been sounding out senior Conservatives about another referendum.

Could it be that, if May fails to placate the ERG and get the numbers to get her deal through, she’ll have to contemplate what to her is unthinkable? That is what Vince seems to be relying on. Let’s hope he’s right.

Although I’m not sure he’s right about one thing he said today. He said another referendum wouldn’t be fun. I think that if we get it, our chance of winning it is to approach it with enthusiasm.

The pro-Remain side will be unencumbered by No 10 or Corbynesque faint-heartedness. It would be free to go for a really emotive, positive, heartstring-tugging, authentic campaign while the other side has to defend something that will definitively make us poorer.

The reason people are so resistant to a referendum is because they know that it could be won by Remain if we get our act together and deliver a decent campaign.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • William Fowler 3rd Feb '19 - 4:05pm

    If it goes down to the wire and another general election (before Brexit happens) then LibDems should offer to revoke article 50 as their first choice in their manifesto with a second vote as second choice if they do not win outright – an outrageous suggestion that they might win but with 60 percent in favour of remain and most of the party loyalties shot to hell who knows.

    Absolutely no silly policies in the manifesto but with the offer of phasing out council tax with the money saved by not leaving the EU used to highlight how much better off we will be remaining.

  • John Marriott 3rd Feb '19 - 4:07pm

    Be careful what you wish for Caron. There are ‘people’, me included, who fear that another referendum might unleash forces that would even more tear our nation apart. The 2016 campaign may seem like a picnic in comparison.

    I still cling to the hope that Parliament can put something together that can get us over the line, perhaps not by 29th March but before the end of June. If not, then, let’s consider another vote, as long as it isn’t just a binary choice.

  • nigel hunter 3rd Feb '19 - 4:08pm

    With or without a referendum the people should look to the future. To break the divides that exist .To stop the austerity of cuts,cuts, cuts and aim for greater equality, to reduce the gap between rich and the super rich and the rest of us.We are all intertwined with each other and should work together for the good of all.

  • Wendy Dunne 3rd Feb '19 - 4:29pm

    I do not think a people’s vote will make a larger tear in a nation already torn apart particularly in the last 12 months. All this prevarication and parliamentary toing and froing is tearing us apart, frustrating us and have a negative affect on business.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Feb '19 - 4:31pm

    In the event of yet another Referendum I think a chunk of The Leave coalition would argue for a Boycott. Lots of Leavers never expected to win & were disappointed when they did, they much prefer the Myth of Betrayal by The Elite.
    Its also worth remembering that a significant part of The Leave Vote were middle-aged, first-time Voters, they didn’t vote in The 2017 Election & they may well not vote in a 2nd Referendum either.

  • If we were to have a referendum it would likely be fought on terms dictated by the groups who want to leave. They put their largely imaginary arguments across at every opportunity – things like take back control, secure our borders and so on. Which people would lead the campaign to stay in the EU? When are they going to start?

  • John Marriott 3rd Feb '19 - 5:12pm

    You may be right. However, living where I do in a strong Brexit area like Lincolnshire, I can assure you that the general reaction to an article I had published last week on the Lincolnite website (check it out if you wish) would indicate that attitudes around here haven’t changed much if at all in the past few years.

    It’s a ‘phoney war’ situation at the moment. If you get your way, just wait until Messrs Tice, Farage, Cummings and Elliott get going, not to mention all those hardcore Brexiteers in Parliament. You see, whether you or I like it or not, the same sentiments that turned what appeared (at least to Cameron and co) a safe bet for Remain in 2015 into a Brexit nightmare in 2016 have just not gone away. If you are relying on non participation as a way of winning for Remain then that will be a problem in itself. Yes, I fully expect most of us to be poorer in the event of any kind of Brexit and yes there may well be a reaction, although knowing the kind of people who would be tempted to go to the barricades, the blame would probably be levelled at the EU.

    Call me naive if you like; but I would honestly rather exhaust every other possible avenue before going back to the people.

  • Nick Bishop 3rd Feb '19 - 5:28pm

    Those who worry, quite genuinely I am sure, about the social unrest of a second referendum resulting in no Brexit should try realistically thinking a few years down the line of the other two likely outcomes. Already today we hear of Nissan pulling back from expansion plans in Sunderland. No doubt they value their skilled and dedicated workforce but all companies have to remain competitive and sooner or later this is likely to mean large scale closures. This means real people, good people who face the choice of the dole queue, or if they are lucky being able to move to Europe.

    Sooner or later the penny will drop with Leave voters that they have been shafted. Noone wants social unrest but at this stage we are likely to have not one but two large sections of society who are and have a right to be angry. This is not a pleasant prospect.

    If there is a second referendum then at least some of the damage already done can start to heal and if the result is 60%+ in favour of remain, while the staunch leavers may still be disgruntled, hopefully they will still have a house and enough to drown their sorrows with a pint while cheering the football.

    Perhaps a sizable number will realise that those liars they believed were intending to shaft them but in the end did not get away with it. In that there is hope we can put the evil genie(s) back in the bottle, safe in the knowledge our children will ram home the stopper.

  • I guess a General Election leaves us absolutely free to campaign to rescind Article 50 (or re-join EU if it is already too late), which gives us a clear mandate to do this if we do win or (more likely) have this as the precondition for any sort of agreement to put others in power.

    In the shorter term, it is vital that we do all we can to ensure that any referendum has no option on the ballot that is ill-defined (as last time) or very dangerous (hard Brexit). Insisting that both sides have clear and detailed proposals, which have had proper impact assessments, would be a good start. That way, we could avoid rubbish like the £350 million a week for the NHS claim, or the threat of Turkey joining EU by both sides having had to name things and their truthfulness checked.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Feb '19 - 6:21pm

    The threats of social unrest in the event of another referendum seem like a new ‘project fear’ – from Brexiteers.

    Given that Remain demonstrations have been pretty peaceful from where do they think the social unrest is going to come?

    Remind us – who murdered Jo Cox? Where is the line between this new project fear and appeasement of the far right?

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Feb '19 - 6:39pm

    And I wasn’t yet around at the time but as I understand it during WW2 the King and Queen remained in residence at Buckingham Palace – and the palace was bombed while they were there.

  • marcstevens 3rd Feb '19 - 7:34pm

    The 2nd referendum needs to be far more democratic than the first which shut people out. This time 16/17 year olds should be included and EU citizens living here given the vote in the same way that Commonwealth citizens were. The first referendum never was deliberately made ‘less democratic’ favouring the leave side.

  • The argument in Parliament revolves around the backstop. The U.K. government wrote the backstop. The EU agreed it. We are told that the EU is unreasonable for not agreeing to changes when neither the U.K. government nor the U.K. knows what they are. However we are moving to a crash out.
    Why is the party not getting the truth out, and campaigning in a positive way for staying as members of the democratic EU?

  • Nigel Jones 4th Feb '19 - 9:39am

    Are pro-EU people across all parties getting together to put their case to the country ?
    Tom Harney, you raise a good question. We also need to have some thoughts about what we say about our relationship with the EU should the country crash out or even if we leave with a ‘deal’, since the deal will still leave many unanswered questions.

  • …………………..Earlier this week, Christine Jardine talked about the Labour Party became the “handmaids of Brexit” after their votes blocked Yvette Cooper’s amendment and helped pass Graham Brady’s time-wasting one calling for unicorns on the Irish border. …………

    Stretching the facts to fit, methinks.

    It was Labour MPS voting against their own party (aren’t we lucky to have so few MPs that Stephen Lloyd’s resigning the party’s whip can pass with barely a whimper).
    How difficult can it be to insert the words ‘Rebels’ somewhere in the sentence?

  • If leavers really do boycott the second ref, that’s a smart strategy. They know they will probably lose, but by boycotting they can destroy the legitimacy of the second vote.

    The slogans almost write themselves. Don’t vote again, they didn’t listen the first time. Etc.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '19 - 5:44pm

    Joe Bourke 5th Feb ’19 – 5:07pm The “first referendum” (on any issue) was in 1975.
    Tom Brake MP spoke to a public meeting in Tonbridge-Tunbridge Wells. He has a series of priorities, the first of which is to get another vote. He does not want to endanger the vote by asking for a wider franchise. He made no answer about the SNP, who achieved votes at 16 for the 2014 referendum (but not for the 2015 general election, creating an unprincipled anomaly thanks to David Cameron).
    Obviously people who were under 18 in 2016 are now older.
    The PM’s slow bicycle race on EU citizens is beginning to look like gerrymandering.

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