Here’s why Jeremy Corbyn is right to demand that Labour MPs support the Article 50 Bill

Tulip Siddiq told Jeremy Corbyn: ‘The most effective place for me to counter Theresa May’s hard Brexit is from the backbenches.’ [Image: Anna Gordon for the Guardian].

Theresa May has published her silly 137-word Article 50 Bill and it’s exactly what you should have expected after the Supreme Court’s decision on the sovereignty of Parliament.

It’s a Bill to take that sovereignty away from Parliament and allow her to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty whenever she fancies.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will impose a three-line whip demanding that Labour MPs attend Parliament and vote in support of Article 50 being invoked. This has created a certain amount of grief among those who, perhaps, do not understand the issues and opportunities presented by the way the EU question is playing out.

I’m not sure I understand it – remember that I am only a member of the public, the same as anybody else, observing from the sidelines, so to speak. But here are my observations, for whatever they’re worth:

Mr Corbyn is not wrong to impose his whip because this Bill, and the vote on it, is where Labour MPs have to decide whether to support or oppose triggering Brexit.

The Tories were always going to pull a dirty trick like this if they lost at the Supreme Court. They have the majority in Parliament, which means nothing Labour does – at all – could stop this Bill being passed unless (I’m told) 22 Tory MPs rebel.

That is possible, depending on what is in the government’s White Paper on its Brexit plan, and whether it is published before the debate and vote next week.

We should all bear in mind that the Conservative Party’s conduct on Brexit has been a shambles.

There should have been an exit plan in place before the referendum was called, so we all knew what was at stake. Everything that has happened since is a consequence of this unforgivable omission.

If the White Paper comes out in time, it is possible that enough Remain-leaning (or even Leaver) Tories will be disgruntled enough to harumph their way through the No lobby.

If not, then anything Labour does can only possibly have symbolic value.

Therefore Labour must support the move to leave the EU – that’s democracy.

Labour will also, under such conditions, table a large number of amendments because, in the absence of a White Paper, the party can argue that – as the Tories have failed to explain what Brexit will mean – it is up to Parliament to do so in the debate.

Any amendment that is voted down provides the opportunity for Labour (or any other opposition party) to explain that the proposal it embodies will not be part of the Tories’ Brexit and that this is deplorable.

So despite being unable to win the vote, Labour sticks to its principle of supporting the people and also exposes the weaknesses of the Tories.

Ms Siddiq’s concern for her constituents is touching but misplaced. The referendum was a national vote and the result in particular constituencies is irrelevant to it.

In such matters, it is the duty of politicians to bow to the will of the nation as a whole – and to stand up for them, fighting for guarantees that their decision cannot be turned to their disadvantage.

By quitting, Ms Siddiq has played into the hands of unscrupulous operators like the Tory candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, Jack Brereton, who told the public, “A vote for Labour will let them think they can ignore and forget what you voted for in the EU referendum.”

That is a mistake – but not one that Jeremy Corbyn will be accused of making.

Shadow minister Tulip Siddiq has resigned from the Labour frontbench, telling the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that she could not reconcile herself to the party’s three-line whip to vote for triggering article 50.

In her letter to Corbyn, the shadow minister for early years said voting to start the process of leaving the EU would be a betrayal of her north London constituents, three-quarters of whom voted to remain in the EU.

Source: Labour MP Tulip Siddiq resigns from frontbench over article 50 vote | Politics | The Guardian

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12 thoughts on “Here’s why Jeremy Corbyn is right to demand that Labour MPs support the Article 50 Bill

  1. Peter Hepworth

    I believe there are rwo reasons why Labour should oppose the bill.1) To vote on the skeleton bill prior to debating the detailed white paper is to fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision. 2) May has set out goverment’s position, which is unequivocally to seek a ‘hard” Brexit. It is beyond the bounds of possibility that this was the wish of the great majority of those who voted Leave, and it therefore cannot be said to be the ‘will of the people’. Hence to oppose it is to support the ‘will of the people’.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The government’s position is to try to have all the benefits of being both in and out of the EU. It’s totally contradictory and confused.
      The fact that there is no White Paper is a huge opportunity for Labour, as detailed in the article.

  2. Barry Davies

    Theresa May did exactly what she said she was going to do, if Millar hadn’t been so keen to waste other peoples money on a personal crusade, there might have been a bill with more in it, as it had no other possibility than to do do what has been done that is what May did. Of course the government isn’t going to lay all its negotiating cards on the table prior to them begining, and no one with an iota of common sense would expect them to.

  3. Bill Sutton

    I think you are totally wrong, Theresa May wants to rush through Article 50 so that she can avoid scrutiny, without even spelling out the basics, and you want the Labour Party to waive it through? Then what? Oh, we’ll have time to thrash out the details later? That’s like admitting a seriously ill person onto A&E and saying, “let’s bury him first, then we can think up a treatment plan at our lesuire”. We have a right and a duty to stand up for our principles, to vote with our conscience on this one. it should be a free vote. If it passes, then we can stand with heads held high and say well we tried.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Just to correct you: Theresa May has no intention of invoking Article 50 until March. The Bill next week is to give her the ability to do so.
      No, I don’t want the Labour Party to just wave it through. Tell me, what part of an article that goes in-depth on the ways the Labour Party won’t just wave it through suggested to you that I want that to happen? No party of it, of course.
      “Oh, well have time to thrash out the details later”? The plan is to thrash out the details, via amendment after amendment, next week. That is what the article is about.
      A free vote, with some Labour MPs voting against the Bill, would give the party’s opponents every opportunity they want to say “Labour is confused over Brexit”, “Labour is defying the will of the people”, “Corbyn is weak and should go”. It would be a huge blunder.

  4. Wanda Lozinska

    Labour is obliged to vote this though at this stage of the Bill. However this means that it will then go on to another reading, when the terms can be thrashed out and amendments put forward, etc. That’s the important bit.

  5. Toy

    Dear Mr Sivier

    Have you ever posted an article on this blog in the least bit critical of Mr Corbyn or any of his works? And provide a link or two to prove it? It seems to me that whatever Mr Corbyn does you praise and champion no matter how unwise verging on the silly just like a tame pet Yes Man.

    Look down, sir, and behold your idol’s feet of clay.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Let’s wait a week and see if you need to apologise, shall we?
      Remember that MPs who don’t support the Article 50 Bill at second reading will forfeit the right to submit amendments.

      1. Hannah

        Mike I’ve had this refuted elsewhere. I don’t understand enough to know either way so I’ll give you answer and links I was shown (I haven’t read them myself yet).

        “ .

        The 1st reading of a Bill is more or less just putting the House on notice that a Bill is starting its passage. 2nd reading is the first opportunity to debate and vote. No amendments are possible at this stage. Amendments are typically put down for debate at the Committee stage – there are restrictions on the scope of amendments- they have to be relevant to the Bill for example, but not on which members can put them down.

        The Parliament website can also tell you about the work of Whips- and what a three line whip is…/mps-and-lords/principal/whips/”

  6. Martin Quinn

    ‘Therefore Labour must support the move to leave the EU – that’s democracy’. What utter nonsense. There is no mandate for Brexit. The £350m pw NHS lie won the vote so it has no legitimacy whatsoever. YouGov polling before the referendum showed how important that lie was.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Well, if the result of the referendum vote was different, how come the rest of us haven’t noticed?
      That is the mandate for Brexit. If it was based on a lie, then people made a mistake because they believed it, but that doesn’t change the result.
      You don’t know that the £350m per week lie won the vote, unless you asked every Leave voter about it after they put their paper in the ballot box, so you can’t expect us to give you any credence there.

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