Open Letter: Conservatives urge MPs to ask the Public for Informed Consent on Brexit

We, the undersigned councillors, officers and representatives of Conservative grassroots organisations, past and present, have grave concerns about the direction our country is headed due to Brexit.

More than two and a half years since the EU referendum, Brexit continues to overshadow all other policy matters. Despite tireless work by the PM and civil service, the promised effortless transition to life outside the EU is not even on the horizon.

As March 29 rapidly approaches, any consensus over what should replace the current arrangement we have with our European neighbours remains elusive. The proposed deal by HMG is rejected both by Eurosceptics as well as those who wish to retain a leading role for the UK in the EU.
The prospect of crashing out of the EU with a reckless No Deal Brexit is clearly against the national interest.

We believe that there has to be another choice. We urge MPs to back the increasing calls for informed consent to be sought from the people, so Britain can either reaffirm its decision to leave the EU with a clearly defined vision for the future, or pull back from a course that could be highly detrimental to the country we all love.

As Conservatives this is not our preferred course of action. As believers in representative democracy we are generally not well disposed to the use of plebiscites and believe that the 2016 referendum was
extremely damaging, worsening divisions rather than settling them. The policy of leaving the EU at all costs obscures the underlying issues which led to the vote. Instead of addressing those issues we are in danger of exacerbating them by continuing on the present course.

Since June 2016 Britons have learned a lot about what is at stake in leaving the EU. Opinion has shifted significantly as people see the damage not just to our economy, but to social cohesion, security and our health service.

We ask you to put it back to the British people one more time.

Signatories

1. Cllr Paul Bettison – Leader, Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Berkshire
2. Cllr Richard Cherry – District and Town Councillor, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
3. Cllr Christine Cherry – Town Councillor, St Andrews, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
4. Cllr Luke Clancy – Croydon Council, London
5. Cllr Matt Clare – Eltham South, Greenwich
6. Cllr Charlie Davis – Eltham North, Greenwich
7. Cllr Samantha England – Sprowston South East and Deputy Chair Political, Norwich North, Norfolk
8. Cllr Julian Gren, North Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
9. Cllr Peter Heydon – Executive Member Transformation & Finance, Bracknell Forest Council, Berkshire
10. Cllr John Keeling MBE – Breage, Germoe and Sithney, Cornwall
11. Cllr Stephanos Ioannou – Southgate, Enfield, London
12. Cllr Hannah Lerego – East Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
13. Cllr Roger Mace – Deputy Leader of Conservative Group, Lancaster City Council, fmr Council Leader 2007-2009, Lancashire
14. Cllr Paul Messenger – Kent County Council, Ramsgate Division, Kent
15. Cllr Richard Micklewright – Ravensthorpe, Daventry, Northamptonshire
16. Cllr Tracy Moore – Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent
17. Cllr Peter Rawlinson – South Northamptonshire Council, Northamptonshire
18. Cllr Daniel Sargeant – Finchampstead North,  Wokingham, Berkshire
19. Cllr Adam Sykes – Clatterbridge, Wirral, Merseyside
20. Paul Verity, District Council Candidate, St Albans, Hertfordshire
21. Julian Tanner – Chair, Brentford & Isleworth Conservatives, London
22.James Terras – fmr Chair, Selkirk Conservatives Club, Selkirk, Scotland
23. Daian Akand – fmr Deputy Chaie, Young Conservatives Bermondsey & Old Southwark, London
24. Harry Bower – Student representative and fmr committee member, Oxford Brookes Conservative Association, Oxfordshire
25. Emmanuel Jannsen – Chairman, King’s College London Conservative Association, London
26. Tom Hulme – Political Secretary, Lincoln University Conservative Society, Lincolnshire
27. Liam Pem – Chair, Young Conservatives Lambeth, London
28.Charley Jarrett – Executive Council Member, LGBT Conservatives, London
29. Nicolas Maclean – fmr councillor, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 1979-90, Political Assistant to Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP, 1975-90
30. Rob Stanton – Former Mayor of Wokingham, Berkshire
31. Mohammed Amin, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, signing in a personal capacity


Leave voters are not violent. Why do their leaders say they are?

With just 82 days left until the UK is set to leave the EU, we are no closer to knowing what Brexit means than we did in 2016. The Prime Minister is facing almost certain overwhelming defeat next week and, like the rest of us, she will have to acknowledge the inevitability of this situation.

It’s time to admit that leaving the EU on beneficial terms is becoming increasingly unlikely and that this is contrary to the vision that was given to voters in 2016. Leaving on No Deal terms makes a mockery the notion of enacting the ‘will’ of the people who were promised a variety of different visions of a brighter future – and this is reflected in the increasing shift of opinion and calls for a new public vote that we see in large parts of the country.

While a lot of MPs abhor the idea of holding another referendum, it is becoming inevitable.  The question is, why are more MP’s not backing this?

We are in this situation because of the undeliverable nature of what the Brexiters promised. During the 2016 Referendum campaign, there was no consideration of the Good Friday Agreement, there was no mention on their side of the economic damage for British business that rely on frictionless trade, the role freedom of movement in selling services, attracting labour for jobs which there simply aren’t enough British people to undertake and allowing our citizens to live, work and retire in other EU countries.

In spite of all these omissions, it is the hard-core Brextremists who shout the loudest.

Now on the defensive, we are seeing a new, nefarious and dangerous type of Project Fear from the few that advocate a hard Brexit at all costs – let’s call it Project Threat. According to this, if we somehow ‘ignore’ the referendum result, we will be ‘betraying’ the ‘will’ of the people, and will have hell to pay for it.

Let me just say, in no uncertain terms, the people cannot betray the people. Indeed, it is entirely undemocratic, and somewhat dictatorial, to suggest that an updated ‘will’ of the people is betrayal that will be met with force. In fact, what would be undemocratic would be the establishment deciding what Brexit meant. The vote of 2016 gave the government a mandate to leave in the vaguest possible sense, as no two leave voters voted for the same thing.

As we have seen increasingly in the last weeks, there is undoubtedly a small minority of those willing to ‘rise up’ and resort to intimidation of members of the press and politicians to get their way. Thugs like James Goddard and his yellow-vest donning neo-fascists are impeccable examples of the real-life manifestation of this project threat.


A group of about 20 yellow vest protesters in London. This is the same small group that has been harassing MPs and journalist outside parliament.

The issue is, and the grave error in judgement that they have made is that there is no indication that their behaviour is condoned, let alone supported by the vast silent majority in the country. On the contrary, we have seen other groups of Leave voters peacefully protesting in a different areas deliberately to distance themselves from these thugs.

Whilst we must offer MPs and journalists resolute protection, we should be pragmatic about the threat this causes and ask a very simple question: Are these the kind of people they are referring to when they talk of an uprising? Would ordinary Leave voters behave in this abhorrent way? Is this how they see Leave voters?

This brings me specifically to my main point to politicians on behalf of the British people; Have faith in us. Do not listen to the doomsayers. British Leave voters, from all parts of the country, of all backgrounds and of all political affiliations are fundamentally decent people. They are law abiding and pragmatic in the most British sense of the meaning.

They have real concerns with where Brexit is headed, but to threaten violence in their name is to disgrace who they are and what they hold dear. To attempt to threaten MPs into an ideologically confined view of the future of this country, in the name of ordinary Leave voters and the public more broadly, is to show utter contempt for those that they seek to represent.

So in true British spirit, lets debate and argue all day and night, but do not, in any way, give in to this new Project Threat.

Jordan Byrne is a 3rd year undergraduate studying political economy at King’s College London and a member of the Conservative Party. He has recently been appointed as a Media Relations Officer at Conservatives for a People’s Vote.

Brexit Lessons from the Commercial World

C4PV executive committee member, Daniel Poser, explains why it’s fantasy to think anyone can renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement now.

I spent years negotiating large commercial transactions for a living. A whole range of contracts from large hotel and corporate purchases to executive incentive plans. Negotiations between governments both do and do not follow the rules that apply in business.

The Article 50 negotiation has mainly been a case where comparisons to the commercial world do not hold. That is because in the commercial world, when two willing parties sit down at the table, they generally do so without a grenade ticking under the table that will blow up at a set time, agreement reached or not. The first rule of negotiation is never negotiate against a ticking clock.

The second rule is always be prepared to call No Deal and mean it. In the commercial world, that means walking away from the table and accepting that both sides revert to their position that existed before negotiations started. Impossible with Article 50 — that grenade is set to blow. So, No Deal in Article 50 terms has never meant what it means in the commercial world. Under Article 50, what it means for the UK, by the government’s own reckoning, is planes that don’t fly, ports where nothing moves, medicines that cannot be guaranteed: people who die. Political suicide.

But now we have entered a phase I do recognise. That point where you have sat up through the night as often as is necessary to get the papers into nearly final form. That point where the commercial framework and the detail have been fully negotiated and fought over. The stage where there are maybe a few details to fill in but no opportunity if you actually want to close the deal for either side to re-open the mechanisms and principles that hold the deal together and make it work.

In a corporate purchase you will probably have secured warranties from the seller that you can call on if promises made don’t turn out to be what they were held out to be. A backstop if you like.

At this final point of the deal, just before signature, you might give one large push back against the quantum of the warranties: “I know I said I’d be on the hook for my promises to the tune of £10 million but sorry I’m limiting that to £5 million before I sign”.

Not at all unheard of is a last minute price cut from a confident buyer who knows that the seller will probably go for the certainty of a deal today rather than start again tomorrow with a different buyer in an uncertain market. A finely-judged (if not entirely ethical) “take-it-or-leave it” moment.

If the divorce payment (actually a complete misnomer for the settling of old and unavoidable debts) were truly a lump sum, the UK could still try one quick slice at that before doing the deal. Of course it isn’t; it’s an agreed mechanism (relatively opaque out of political necessity to make it impossible to calculate an accurate figure now) and the EU will have no tinkering with that.

Likewise the Irish backstop is a finely-tuned, hard-negotiated mechanism designed to protect the interests of the EU, Ireland and the UK (i.e. the UK’s vital interests as a party to the Good Friday Agreements). The form of the backstop is the one requested by the UK government that allows it to say that Northern Ireland remains at all times within the customs territory of the UK. Renegotiating that now, particularly to insert an unilateral rip cord the UK could pull to depart, would be like taking the warranties out of an agreed final form commercial agreement at the last minute. It would simply lead to deal-break.

Those cabinet ministers who think they can plot over the next week and force a wholesale renegotiation betray their lack of understanding of how negotiation works in the endgame.

Yes, the deal’s a stinker. But that’s because Brexit is a stinker and would be so whoever had negotiated it, because the UK’s flawed assumption was that the EU would be willing to damage itself in order to accommodate us as we walk through the exit door. It took an age for the various negotiating ministers — Brexiters to the last man and woman — to get where they got. Renegotiation is not an option now.

Back in the political world, where these ministers presumably do have expertise, the deal looks likely to go down in flames in the Commons. Then we take our chances that common sense prevails.

Just as the shareholders of a public company can reject a value-destroying major transaction proposed by the directors, the public needs to be allowed to scrutinise these terms, vote no to the deal and stay as we are: remain.


Daniel Poser is an Executive Committee member of Conservatives for a People’s Vote. This article has also been published on medium.com.