By Charlotte King
Jeremy Corbyn recently announced that his party are officially willing to back a second referendum, more commonly known as a People’s Vote, following the defeat of Labour’s proposed Brexit deal last week. This is as a last resort to prevent a ‘damaging’ no deal or hard Brexit and has been a plan in the works ever since the Labour Party Conference. The decision has come after months of mounting pressure on Corbyn from members of his own party to back a second referendum, with the final push over the edge arguably being the fear that the newly formed Independent Group might attract more dissatisfied MPs if Labour did not state an official backing of another referendum.
Last Wednesday, a series of amendments were voted upon in Parliament, namely Labour’s proposed Brexit plan, Yvette Cooper’s amendment and the SNP’s amendment calling to take no deal off the table, even in the event of an extension of Article 50. Labour’s amendment, which included staying in the customs union and stronger alignment with the single market, was voted down by 323 to 240 votes, and the SNP’s proposal was also voted down by 324 to 288. Yvette Cooper’s amendment, which proposed to commit Theresa May to delay Brexit if the House of Commons voted to do so, was by far the most successful, being voted up by 502 to 20 votes, a significant majority.
In lieu of these developments, Corbyn has now committed Labour to backing another EU referendum, but has also stated that he will continue to strive for a general election. However, this has not cured all of the Labour Party’s Brexit-related problems. Last week’s proceedings have shown that whilst May’s Brexit deal has been dead in the water for a while, Corbyn’s deal is not able to garner a majority either, and some Labour MPs remain staunch believers that Labour is wrong to back a People’s Vote and should put all its weight behind ensuring they deliver a good Brexit deal in a timely manner.
What does this mean for the newly-established Independent Group? What appeared to be TIG’s main reason for being is to officially back a second Brexit referendum, attracting disgruntled MPs who too wanted to put all their weight behind a People’s Vote. Corbyn’s move to get Labour backing a second referendum however arguably voids TIG of its core purpose. Others argue, however, that this development does not render TIG void as another of their main goals is to offer a centrist option within Parliament.
Following last week’s amendments, there are hints that Theresa May could spring a surprise ‘meaningful vote’ on her proposed Brexit deal this coming week, which is currently scheduled for March 12th. This vote will likely be the next indicator on where the Brexit negotiations will head next.