Labour’s full ‘conference policy’ on Brexit/referendum – and a summary in 3 lines

Full policy wording currently misrepresented by proponents of ‘confirmatory vote’ – below is the full wording and a clear summary of its significance
Labour’s 2018 conference in Liverpool

In recent weeks, opponents of Brexit have switched from calling for a “people’s vote” to the idea of a “confirmatory vote (CV) on any deal” – perhaps considering that the idea of confirming a deal is more marketable than trying to explicitly overturn the 2016 referendum. However, as the calls are for a CV to include ‘remain’ as an option, the difference is merely notional.

As with its predecessor, those pushing ‘CV’ have increasingly misunderstood or misrepresented Labour’s ‘conference policy’ on the notion of any new public vote, currently claiming that it contains a ‘commitment’ to such a vote ‘in all circumstances’.

The full wording of Labour’s conference resolution is clear but lengthy. It is shown below – along with a simple, three-line summary of its significance and the position that Jeremy Corbyn is expected to ask today’s meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to confirm:

Full resolution

Background

Conference welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s determined efforts to hold the Tories to account for their disastrous negotiations. Conference accepts that the public voted to leave the EU, but when people voted to ‘take back control’ they were not voting for fewer rights, economic chaos or to risk jobs. Conference notes the warning made by Jaguar Land Rover on 11.9.18, that without the right deal in place, tens of thousands of jobs there would be put at risk.

Conference notes that workers in industries across the economy in ports, food, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy, chemicals, in our public services and beyond are worried about the impact of a hard Brexit on livelihoods and communities.

Conference believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market. The Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the NHS. Tory Brexit means a future of dodgy trade deals and American-style deregulation, undermining our rights, freedoms and prosperity. This binds the hands of future Labour governments, making it much harder for us to deliver on our promises. Conference notes Labour has set six robust tests for the final Brexit deal. Conference believes Labour MPs must vote against any Tory deal failing to meet these tests in full.

Conference also believes a no-deal Brexit should be rejected as a viable option and calls upon Labour MPs to vigorously oppose any attempt by this Government to deliver a no-deal outcome. Conference notes that when trade unions have a mandate to negotiate a deal for their members, the final deal is accepted or rejected by the membership. Conference does not believe that such important negotiations should be left to government ministers who are more concerned with self-preservation and ideology than household bills and wages.

Stagnant wages, crumbling services and the housing crisis are being exacerbated by the government and employers making the rich richer at working people’s expense, and not immigration. Conference declares solidarity and common cause with all progressive and socialist forces confronting the rising tide of neo-fascism, xenophobia, nationalism and right wing populism in Europe.

Resolution

Conference resolves to reaffirm the Labour Party’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 including no hard border in Ireland.

Conference believes that there is no satisfactory technological solution that is compliant with the Good Friday Agreement and resolves to oppose any Brexit deal that would see the restoration of a border on the island of Ireland in any form for goods, services or people.

Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power.

If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.

This should be the first step in a Europe-wide struggle for levelling-up of living standards, rights and services and democratisation of European institutions Labour will form a radical government; taxing the rich to fund better public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.

Note that there is no mention of a ‘vote in all circumstances’. Instead, the resolution lists options that Labour will keep on the table to defeat a ‘Tory Brexit deal’.

Summary

The conference motion therefore boils down to three options:

  1. A Labour Brexit (no referendum)
  2. A negotiated Brexit (no referendum)
  3. If Theresa May forces a Tory Brexit that would damage the UK and create a harder border on the island of Ireland, Labour will support all means to stop it including, if necessary, a new vote

SKWAWKBOX view:

Both the summary and the full wording carry a clear commitment by Labour to enact the result of the 2016 referendum – unless a new vote is required as a last resort to prevent the disaster May and her party have created.

If Labour’s NEC votes in anything firmer on a so-called ‘confirmatory vote’ today, it will have exceeded the policy approved by Labour’s sovereign policy-making body: its party conference.

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18 responses to “Labour’s full ‘conference policy’ on Brexit/referendum – and a summary in 3 lines

  1. We are at the negotiating stage ATM, Labour have missed a trick by not explaining where we are at. the general public are confused by their stance (not helped by the MSM) and are angry, Watson and others are not helping, we need to get our act together.

    • Agreed – but then it would be difficult to say we were negotiating in good faith if we’re leaking the details. The Tories have blotted their book by leaking.

      • I take your point Steve but in the mean time the public are confused and accuse Labour of forcing Brexit and destroying it in equal amounts which isn’t a good image, we are alienating both sides,

  2. “Labour must support all options remaining on the table” can be read as “support the principle that all options must remain on the table” – clearly the intended meaning – or “support all options not yet excluded.”
    Shame it wasn’t as clear as it could have been.

    • Indeed – but that’s often the nature of ‘composited’ motions, they’re a compromise that has to be accepted by parties with differing views.

      • Indeed Skwawky. Those of us at 2018 Conference as Delegates who believed that the clear 2017 Manifesto promise “to respect the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum” , actually meant that – and recognised that to then adopt a Party policy to re-run the 2016 vote (and even worse, for Labour to adopt a Remain position – as the PV brigade blatantly want) , would be electoral suicide for our Party, were horrified by the many “let’s adopt Remain and demand a second referendum” motions on offer. It was with huge relief that after five hours of all night negotiations the composited motion that is now our policy was finally put forward, and agreed by Conference. That, undoubtedly wooly, in places ambiguous, composited motion represents our Party having “dodged a bullet” in policy terms – fired by the Mandelson/Blair claque , precisely to split the Party and ensure it loses the next General Election. The Blairites serious think they can “get their party back” only after a massive electoral defeat for Jeremy – to return to the good old days of US-style politics closely oriented around the neoliberal consensus, the privatising, austerity enforcing “centrism” of all the major UK Parliamentary parties of the last 30 years – and corrupt pay-backs for them from Big Business after leaving Parliament. They refuse to recognise that across Europe that corrupt, rotten, version of “social democracy” has collapsed – and its hoped for liberal centrist replacement, “Macronism” has provoked regular large scale fighting on France’s streets – and an accelerating growth in the populist Far Right!

  3. Thanks S for this.

    Will a ‘Labour Brexit’ or a negotiated Brexit deal with Tories also have to meet Labour’s Six Tests (and pass them)?

    I’m less well informed than Skwarkbox but my 3 point summary would look a bit different as there is no mention of a Labour Brexit not needing a referendum [or is this elsewhere?].

    • The conference motion is about measures to prevent a ‘hard’ Tory Brexit (i.e. one that would result in a hard border – and lots else, but that’s the common thread).

      Yes re the six tests, although any deal that Labour might agree with the Tories is never going to be perfect.

  4. Unfortunately you appear to have missed out a chunk of the policy that was agreed at conference so in the interests of transparency I have reproduced it in full below.

    Conference welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s determined efforts to hold the Tories to account for their disastrous negotiations.

    Conference accepts that the public voted to leave the EU, but when people voted to ‘take back control’ they were not voting for fewer rights, economic chaos or to risk jobs.

    Conference notes the warning made by Jaguar Land Rover on 11.9.18, that without the right deal in place, tens of thousands of jobs there would be put at risk.

    Conference notes that workers in industries across the economy in ports, food, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy, chemicals, in our public services and beyond are worried about the impact of a hard Brexit on livelihoods and communities.

    Conference believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market. The Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the NHS. Tory Brexit means a future of dodgy trade deals and American-style deregulation, undermining our rights, freedoms and prosperity. This binds the hands of future Labour governments, making it much harder for us to deliver on our promises.

    Conference notes Labour has set six robust tests for the final Brexit deal. Conference believes Labour MPs must vote against any Tory deal failing to meet these tests in full.

    Conference also believes a no-deal Brexit should be rejected as a viable option and calls upon Labour MPs to vigorously oppose any attempt by this Government to deliver a no-deal outcome.

    Conference notes that when trade unions have a mandate to negotiate a deal for their members, the final deal is accepted or rejected by the membership.

    Conference does not believe that such important negotiations should be left to government ministers who are more concerned with self-preservation and ideology than household bills and wages.
    Stagnant wages, crumbling services and the housing crisis are being exacerbated by the government and employers making the rich richer at working people’s expense, and not immigration.

    Conference declares solidarity and common cause with all progressive and socialist forces confronting the rising tide of neo-fascism, xenophobia, nationalism and right wing populism in Europe.

    Conference resolves to reaffirm the Labour Party’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 including no hard border in Ireland.

    Conference believes that there is no satisfactory technological solution that is compliant with the Good Friday Agreement and resolves to oppose any Brexit deal that would see the restoration of a border on the island of Ireland in any form for goods, services or people.

    Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power.
    If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.

    This should be the first step in a Europe-wide struggle for levelling-up of living standards, rights and services and democratisation of European institutions

    Labour will form a radical government; taxing the rich to fund better public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.
    https://labourlist.org/2018/09/labours-brexit-composite-motion-in-full/

    • Yes – Sqwawkbox is busting a gut to step back in time and justify a non-policy.

      As several of us have said, many normally easy-peasy Labour supporters who would never support the Tories or Farage (unlike some Lexiteers) are disillusioned by what they see as indecisive and confused position. Arguing that it’s all
      Blairites/MSM/Centrists/|Changists/Watson/Whatever is simply distorted bollocks. The position lacks credibility and is viewed with actual despair – even comntempt – by many that I have spoken to who have been consistent supporters of Corbyn throughout the last few years.

      The policy, as relayed by Sqwawkbox :@

      “If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

      Well – we haven’t (surprise, surprise) got a general election. So the public vote *is* on the table. And it’s high time to push it up the agenda ahead of the tactical farting about with a ‘customs union’ idea that only has a rationale in terms of making life difficult for the Tories.

      Yes, there will be recidivists who stamp their little tiny feet at not getting their way – but we know why : the last thing they want is for the intelligent (majority) part of the Party and the public to prevail throuigh a democratic vote. Much better a clamour of dictatorial ignorance and non-choice.

      Forget the sophistry about a long outdated policy. I couldn’t give a toss about angels on the head of a pin.Let’s get on with proper *Labour* *progressive* politics and oppose the Tories and the Brexiteers.

      • “Distorted Bollocks”. Now there’s an eloquent thought for the day! Unless I’m mistaken, it would appear that RH has been @ the nocturnal cheese again & it’s all getting a little too visual.

  5. The other issue worth highlighting is the complaint about Brexit overshadowing other major political issues.

    This is undoubtedly true, but further confusion arises because Labour cannot be distinguished from the Tories in such a key area. The lack of real policy and repetitious ducking the issue with ‘respecting the referendum’ garbage simply allows the Tories to waklk away with the family silver – even if their walk is shambolic.

    An article in the Graun is worth a read – about the shambles that is Tory Northamptonshire, and the anti-democratic measures taken by the government to hide the situation :

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/30/no-local-elections-northamptonshire-county-council-this-week-how-convenient

    But how much has this been in the headlines?

    Indeed. Brexit, despite doing the Tories immediate damage is actually working in their favour by a process of exclusion and unwitting complicity.

  6. On another tack, it is interesting to note that the policies cited at the end of the composite resolution are actually incompatible with EU membership or with a soft Brexit.

    “Expanding common ownership” is only lawful if it takes the form of “competitive common ownership” – competing in a capitalist market against private enterprises. To turn a sector into a state monopoly 1945-style violates the EU Treaty right of freedom of establishment of corporations in other Member States. And any firm regardless of its nationality can enforce the permanence of the capitalist market in the key utility sectors of gas, electricity, post, rail and telecommunications, courtesy of the liberalisation directives.

    “Engaging in massive public investment” is only lawful under the EU state aids regime if it does not distort the single market, so public investment cannot be used to give a general “leg up” to British industries and help our workers.

    See Costas Lapavitsas’ analysis:
    https://www.thefullbrexit.com/quit-single-market

  7. Well summarised.

    I am certain that many Labour members and voters are well aware of the situation and are a lot more knowledgeable about all issues and the Labour policy than the main stream media.

  8. Hi Skwawkbox
    I am a regular reader and paid subscriber and value your daily news.
    The truth is that the conference policy is ambiguous at best but otherwise more in favour of a public vote than you state.
    The words in the policy include ‘If we cannot get a general election Labour must support campaigning for a public vote’.
    This removes the words ‘all options remaining on the table, including’
    From the full sentence ‘If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote’.

    The only circumstance that we will not ‘support all options’ is if we can get a general election.
    Since we have not got a general election ‘Labour must support all options including campaigning for a public vote’

    I understand that you do not personally support this option. But you cannot say that failing to get it through the commons means that it is no longer party policy.
    I get it that many anti Corbynistas support remain. But many of them would do so in nearly all circumstances Corbyn or no Corbyn, you cannot reduce their political position to an anti-Corbyn one, that is just an added benefit to them, not a primary driver.

    In short you are using this as a more divisive issue in Labour than it needs to be. The conference position is a vote in all circumstances apart from gaining a general election. I agree with the approach that when we adopt PV, it should be reluctant and as a chance for the public to approve the final Brexit position, not as a way of overturning the first referendum. That is why Tom Watson is wrong, not because he is misrepresenting party policy.

    It is a difficult tight rope so I respect your position up to a point but I think your reading of party policy is misleading which is a big issues as democracy and party policy are very important to democratic socialists.

    With very good wishes

    Gareth

    • Thanks for a considered post, Gareth.

      As you say, this is “a more divisive issue in Labour than it needs to be”.

      There are often calls for ‘compromise’ on the issue of Brexit. There is no obvious compromise, since it is a binary issue in terms of the referendum, and subsequent examination has only underlined this fact; various outcomes floated as ‘compromises’ don’t alter the fundamentals.

      In this scenario, the sensible way forward in terms of the idea of a ‘compromise’ is, clearly, a further vote that gives the electorate a chance to confirm or contradict the original split decision.

      Most of us who support this option being adopted don’t see it as a perfect solution – simply the only rational way forward in the face of a fatally compromised flawed referendum that resulted in a minority view being held as a constitutional mandate.

      As a consolidating policy, it really shouldn’t be a problem – except for the fearful, and would sweep away much of the internal dissension, leaving fractures to the Tories.

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