In a historic weekend for British politics, we paid witness to yet another knock to the Conservative leadership, as the Letwin Amendment passed through Parliament, backed by the roars of the million-strong crowd gathered outside the chamber.
Dubbed “Super Saturday”, 19 October turned out to be anything but for Mr. Johnson as he was met with a number of setbacks to his desired Parliamentary schedule. It was, however, a Super Saturday undeniably for the estimated one million protestors who travelled from every corner of the United Kingdom to demand that their voices are heard in any future withdrawal agreement.
The People’s Vote March is a statement that simply requests that if any future agreements are made between Parliament and the European Union regarding the UK’s withdrawal, the deal should be put back to the people once more in the form of a referendum with the question: “Do you want this new deal, or would you prefer to remain in the EU?”
The People’s Vote March explains on their website:
“The march from Park Lane to Parliament will deliver a message loud and clear to the Government and MPs that they should trust the people, not Boris Johnson, to solve the Brexit crisis.”
The streets were crowded with close to one million protestors who came flag-in-hand to show their European solidarity and demand to be heard by the Government. The weather was mostly glorious, with a brief downpour which did not deter any of the speakers who included the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas – but there was one notable person absent; “Where’s Jezza?” a disgruntled man beside me asked. Of course he wasn’t there, Corbyn is about as Europhilic as Nigel Farage, though his truancy speaks more about the stance of the Labour Party and their likelihood of supporting the cause.
The BBC released a 60 second helicopter shot that shows the sheer size of the protest, that can be viewed here.
“But it is undemocratic to ignore the 2016 referendum, why should we have another?”
This question is valid though it misses the issue at hand. In 2016 the Government, foolishly, opened the can of worms by offering the people a massively over-simplified choice to decide the fate of future UK-EU relations. The option to Remain or Leave fails to acknowledge the multiplicity of deals that could be made; hard vs soft, levels of workers’ rights, and, of course, the stubborn issue of the Irish border, which is fundamental to peace in Northern Ireland.
If a deal is struck, then it seems that the only truly democratic way to decide whether this deal is favourable is to put the terms back to the people once more and let them decide. This method is not ignoring the 2016 result, but instead reveals the true support for any decision.
Boris Johnson’s newly negotiated deal fell so short of the mark that even the Leave.EU leader, Nigel Farage, called it “appalling” and “Brexit in name only”. This is proof in itself that when the people of the UK voted to leave, they did not vote to leave on any terms but rather which each individual having their own idea of what Brexit should be, making the leave majority fragmented into many tiny minorities.
The Letwin Amendment that passed on Saturday to the delight of the protestors, alongside the Benn Act, forced the Government to request an extension on Brexit negotiations. Johnson abided by the law, somewhat, and sent two letters to the EU: one requesting the extension, but another explaining why he doesn’t in fact want an extension.
The deal was supposed to be put in front of Parliament on Monday, however it was not allowed to be passed as John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, deemed it to be too similar in substance to the previously voted down deal of Mrs May and that “it would be repetitive and disorderly” to put it in front of a vote. His deal has already been heavily criticized for its undermining of workers’ rights and its entangling of Northern Ireland into complicated tax regulations and customs unions.
So what does this mean for the immediate future of Brexit and the chance of a People’s Vote?
Well, with the EU permitting, further extensions are inevitable and Johnson’s back is against the wall. The Lib Dems are the only party to back the people’s vote from the start, though Kier Starmer has recently suggested Labour will also respect the people’s final choice – though Corbyn cannot be trusted given his Eurosceptic history. Labour confirmed they are now ready for general election which will be initiated in the coming week, so a prime minister with mandate may arrive just in time for Christmas.
To conclude, as a crowd gathered beneath the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, David Lammy quoted the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary saying “It is the men and women of the country that make history” in a powerful message to put the power back to the demos, the people, with the final choice.
Last modified: 27th October 2019