Home > Electoral Reform, Europe, Uncategorized > Winning the Peoples’ Vote

Winning the Peoples’ Vote

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It looks like the most plausible way for Britain to remain in the EU is for a Peoples’ Vote on the terms of Brexit, and with the newly-publicised allegations about involvement between Leave campaigners and Russian politicians, this may happen sooner rather than later. To be clear, this isn’t my preferred outcome – I’d rather Parliament got its collective head out of its arse and took responsibility for acting in the interests of the country. I’m also not convinced that we can have a meaningful Peoples’ Vote in the right time frame, certainly not without extending Article 50.

But how do we win a Peoples’ Vote, if one happens? It will be critical to do so – this is real double-or-nothing territory, and the same establishment forces will be out to trick people into thinking that leaving the EU is the simple solution to the complex problems we face.

Firstly, it will be most important of all to hammer home that the leave campaigns lied. Even more so if it turns out they cheated. This is by far the most important thing to sway soft Leavers and the ones who want us to “just get on with it”. Use quotes from leave campaigners after the referendum was won, about how the £350 million for the NHS was retracted the very same night, and so on. Put Farage’s quote of “I never promised it would be a huge success” over a photo of him looking smug on billboards around the country. Highlight the company movements and job losses over the last two years. The campaign slogan – “They fooled us once…”

Secondly, that won’t be enough. The Leave campaign identified real fears people have, and blamed them on immigrants and the EU. It was an easy sell after decades of tabloid stories. We need to address those fears and allay them, not play to them. We need to campaign on, for example:

  • We have more say over our fate in a global economy as a member of the EU than outside it
  • Freedom of Movement benefits us all, but how those benefits aren’t being felt equally in the UK due to our tax and employment
  • Under-funding of the NHS and social services makes it easy to blame over-stretch on migrants, when it’s the Government’s fault in the first place
  • UK fishing quotas are greater under the Common Fisheries Policy than they would be outside, and fishing licenses are allocated to large foreign-owned fleets by the UK Government
  • There aren’t enough houses and we need to build more, and migration can help us with that
  • Migrant workers undercutting locals is a failure in labour laws, not immigration policy
  • We can better fund asylum services and allow asylum seekers to work while their claims are being processed, and have restored exit checks for visas, to reduce abuse of those systems while still retaining freedom of movement within the EU

We should advocate actual reform of the relationship between the EU institutions and the UK Parliament, such as direct election of the UK’s EU Commissioner, and having them be questioned by the UK Parliament; supporting the “lead candidate” system for the President of the European Commission; and of course using British Proportional Representation for elections to the European Parliament.

And it’s clear from these points that we can’t present a nationwide united front for the Remain cause. One of the problems with the Stronger In campaign is that it had to come up with messages that were acceptable across the Remain landscape, which meant fairly generic messages being handed out by an army of amazing enthusiastic volunteers. We couldn’t effectively challenge the blame placed on the EU by the Leave campaigns, because it meant criticising decisions made by political parties under the Stronger In umbrella.

Come the Peoples’ Vote, and we need to fight it as political parties and other campaign groups. We need to show a diversity of options for the UK Government to pursue to deal with the problems we face, which are caused by the UK Government and not by our membership of the EU, and which Brexit will make worse.

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