OPINION: If Brexit is the 'will of the people' then let's test it

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OPINION: If Brexit is the 'will of the people' then let's test it
Placards at the march in London on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain explains why Saturday October 19th, 2019 will, for a long time, be remembered as a significant day in the struggle to stop Brexit.


Many British citizens from Spain joined over a million marchers at the #PeoplesVote rally: a day of solidarity, strength, good humour and determination. A day we will proudly recall, in years to come, with the words “I was there”.

For those of us fighting to stay in the EU, it will be remembered as another significant day in which the prime minister, Boris Johnson, was prevented by parliament from rushing through his damaging Brexit deal.

On Thursday October 17th, at the EU summit, Johnson unexpectedly agreed terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The shock of the 11th hour agreement was followed by news that parliament would vote on the deal on “Super Saturday”, with a view to leaving the EU on October 31st, should it pass. The votes were too close to call as to whether the deal would pass.

Thanks to an ingeniously simple but effective amendment by Sir Oliver Letwin, Johnson withdrew the planned vote on the deal. The Letwin amendment, described as an insurance policy to prevent a last minute “accidental” no deal, passed by a majority of 16.

The news of this monumental defeat for the government was greeted with huge cheers from the crowds in Parliament Square. With the result of this vote, and because of the Benn Act, Johnson would be forced to write to the EU requesting an extension.

Just before the deadline of 11pm, Johnson sent three letters. The first was a copy of the letter enshrined in the Benn Act, which he failed to sign. The second was a letter stating that the first letter was from parliament and not from the prime minister. The third letter stated that an extension was undesirable to both the UK and the EU and should not be granted.

The EU is expected to take some time to respond. It’s unlikely that the unsigned state of the first, and only legally significant letter, will cause any concern. An extension is coming – the only questions are:  for how long will it be and what conditions might be attached?

The government intends to bring the deal back to the House on Monday for a vote. It’s seems unlikely that the Speaker will allow such a vote, following the vote on the motion on Saturday. The Brexit bill will return for debate on Tuesday, with the prime minister aiming to rush it through parliament before the Halloween deadline. This seems highly unlikely, given the length and complexity of the bill and the arguments it will create.

Bremain in Spain has said for months that we’re not leaving the EU on October 31st, either with or without a deal.

We have suggested that Remainers put their faith in parliament and the public. On Saturday October 19th, both parliament and the people came together to show there’s still the will and the way to stop the government’s irresponsible and damaging Brexit plans.

A #FinalSay referendum has always been the best way, the democratic way, the only way to bring the country back together and to resolve this unrelenting crisis. Parliament is likely to obtain the opportunity to vote for that option in the coming days. The EU will be paying close attention and will factor the outcome re a referendum into their decision on extension length.

Make no mistake – the EU might be sick to the back teeth of Brexit, and successive British governments, but an extension is coming. The UK parliament has officially asked for an extension, even if Johnson did so grudgingly. The EU would not force any country to leave that wishes to stay. The British public wishes to stay, in increasing numbers. It’s time to ask the people.

If Brexit really is the “will of the people”, as we’ve been told repeatedly over the last three and a half years, then it’s time to put that to the test. If the government and the Brexiters are right, then what have they got to lose?

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain



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