Jim Fitzpatrick MP: The only way to avoid a Brexit delay or a second referendum is to support the Prime Minister’s deal

Posted On: 
6th March 2019

Former Labour minister Jim Fitzpatrick explains why despite representing a borough that voted 67% to remain and campaigning to remain himself, he will vote for the Prime Minister's deal in the next meaningful vote.

"I don’t support a delay now – nor do I support another referendum" - Jim Fitzpatrick MP

I campaigned and voted Remain, and my borough of Tower Hamlets voted 67% Remain also. However, we lost. Further, Parliament voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50, and the subsequent Labour manifesto of 2017 confirmed we would respect those decisions.

Labour’s position was to try to frustrate the Government by trying to secure a General Election. We tried to do this through our Vote of No Confidence but we lost.

My position therefore has been essentially to prevent a No Deal Brexit, and the only way I can see to do that is by supporting the alternative, which is the Prime Minister’s deal.

I don’t support a delay now – nor do I support another referendum.

For colleagues who also don’t support a delay or another referendum, the only way to assure that is to support the Prime Minister’s deal.

The country elects us to make decisions, and we have done everything so far to get our own or our Party’s views through. None have succeeded – and now it’s crunch time.

There appear to be four options which will confront MPs next week. The PM’s Deal, Delay, 2nd Referendum, and No Deal. The Attorney General is in Brussels still trying to tweak the “Deal”, but I’m not confident he will be able to return with anything positive, so the backstop will remain an issue.

If the PM’s deal is supported next week, I expect an amendment along the lines of Kyle-Wilson to put the deal to a referendum for approval. There are two problems with this. Firstly, Labour’s policy is for a “credible deal” to be put to the people, and I thought Labour didn’t believe hers to be “credible”.

I don’t believe there is a majority for another referendum. Further, a referendum could not be organised before the EU elections this summer. This means we will have to field candidates and secure an extension of Article 50. The delay has to be approved by all 27 states, and several have made very negative noises so far.

If the PM’s deal is defeated, we move to a vote on No Deal. It’s clear there is no majority in the House for a No Deal outcome, so we move to a vote on a delay. A short delay seems to be pointless as we have been dithering on this for 6 months almost, so two more seems wasteful. If it’s a longer delay, we’d better start picking candidates for the European elections.

The ERG and Remainers are facing eachother down. Neither can win. The ERG can have a Brexit but not on WTO terms. The Remainers can have a softer Brexit but not a referendum.

The PM would be happy to get her deal through and I suspect Jeremy Corbyn will be happy to keep his hands clean and blame Brexit on the Tories, and the minority of Labour MPs who don’t want to frustrate Brexit, don’t want a second referendum, and came to terms with the fact that now is the time to decide.

This is where I am.

Jim Fitzpatrick is the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse