Labour MP’s Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson may just have handed the government an answer as to break the Brexit deadlock. Their amendment (which proposes that MP’s support Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement on the condition that it is then put to a public vote) has been growing in popularity recently, gaining the backing of several senior MP’s; most notably John McDonnell who endorsed it as a possible “solution” to the Brexit stalemate.
The proposed amendment has a clear aim: to break the Brexit impasse by delivering a legally binding answer to the Brexit question; one which has the support of both Parliament and the people in what Peter Kyle describes as a “double lock”.
The Brexit checkmate, which has driven Britain to the brink of a No-Deal crisis, needs to be resolved as soon as possible. The only way it is going to be resolved, however, is through compromise and unity. Both Labour and the Conservatives have opposed each other every step of the way during the negotiation period and for far too long have been fighting internal battles rather than dealing with the crisis cooperatively.
In times of crisis, it is the duty of government to come together in the national interest. The Kyle/Wilson amendment offers them the chance to do just that.
It’s not perfect, it is a compromise. Corbyn and May must meet in the middle and seek to forge some sort of consensus. In an ideal world, Labour would force a general election and deliver a workable Brexit. May would see her deal pass through the Commons with the support of the ERG. However, neither of these outcomes seems remotely possible; and Brexit Britain is far from ideal.
Perhaps this is the one admirable quality of the newly founded Independent Group: they recognise that Brexit is a unique moment in British political history and one which requires cooperation in place of division.
Many Labour members (myself included) have been rightfully sceptical of the division and hostility which would accompany a second referendum, but the Kyle/Wilson amendment would not be a simple re-run of the 2016 referendum.
It is different in a number of crucial ways. As opposed the 2016 vote, the outcome of this “yes” or “no” vote will be clear and concise and have immediate ramifications; as opposed to a freestanding second referendum, the answer to which would provide more questions than it would answers. It is not a simple re-run where the first vote is disregarded; it is a reaction to two years of parliamentary proceedings which have left us with a clear choice: Theresa May’s deal or a No-Deal. There is no majority for either of these things, so the choice must be given back to the people.
Most importantly, the Kyle/Wilson amendment, if given Labour backing, has a significantly higher chance of passing through the Commons than a simple 2016 re-do would have.
The amendment offers Corbyn a lifeline at a time of crisis. Not only does this option give him the chance to appease MP’s and younger members campaigning for a People’s Vote, he also has the chance to reverse the worrying trend which has seen many Labour MP’s resign from the party. For right or wrong, Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit stance has been greatly criticised by certain groups of MP’s and by backing the Kyle/Wilson amendment, Corbyn can stem the flow of defectors which threatens to engulf him and the party into a full-blown crisis.
Importantly, the amendment offers Corbyn the chance to do all this while simultaneously avoiding casting Labour as the “Remain” party and the Tories as the “Brexit Party”. This would have no doubt lost him many voters. As reports have suggested, the motion has the support of many senior Tories and, should it pass, May too would be required to support a second vote.
The Kyle/Wilson agreement is unique in that it is a gamble for both May and Corbyn. They would be isolating minorities for the greater good. In accepting it they would be going against significant groupings in their respective parties – the ERG in the case of May and the Labour Brexiteers for Corbyn.
In this time of national crisis, the Kyle/Wilson amendment seems the least terrible option.
With little over a month remaining, we really are down to the wire. Labour must put their weight behind this motion and give the British people a chance to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal.