February 14, 2019
What will Jeremy Corbyn do?
We cannot rule out that Jeremy Corbyn will in the end, reluctantly, endorse a second referendum. It is not our baseline scenario. And, even if he did, we see no majority for it in the House of Commons. Nor does Corbyn for that matter. We have noted for some time that the trend is moving away from the second referendum, especially as MPs have been receiving feedback from their constituents. In the extremely unlikely event that the House of Commons would vote in favour of an amendment for a second referendum, we see no chance of legislation being brought and passed. Elections would be a more likely consequence at that point.
But the debate matters because it is tearing Labour apart. And this is going to be an important factor in the run-up to the next and final meaningful vote, which we expect to happen close to the March 29 deadline.
Last night on Peston, we noticed Jess Phillips, a Labour MP and a second referendum supporter, saying that she would possibly support the withdrawal agreement. She also said there would be a quite a few Labour MPs who would do so as well. And Len McCluskey, the UK's most powerful trade union leader and a close Corbyn ally, reiterated his opposition to a second referendum on the same programme.
The FT and the Guardian this morning reported of a pending rebellion by pro-Remain Labour MPs. What surprised us is how small the numbers are. The FT talks about "at least half a dozen", which is another way of saying six. The Guardian talks about ten shadow cabinet members threatening to resign. The FT writes that February 27 is a possible moment for the rebellion if Corbyn failed to support an amendment for a repeat referendum. The article is telling us that tempers are frayed and that some of the MPs have become emotional and angry at their leader's unwillingness to support their cause. What we thought interesting in the story are the emerging splits among second-referendum supporters. Some believe that a break-away is not helpful as it would surely entrench Corbyn's own position.
The Guardian writes that Corbyn faces up to ten resignations if he fails to come out in favour of a second-referendum amendment. What the story does not tell us is the number of resignations he faces if he does. We recall a recent story of a substantially larger number of shadow ministers willing to quit if Labour went anti-Brexit. The Labour Party is split on this issue just like the Tories.
One possibility is for Corbyn to support a second referendum amendment as a tactical ploy to kill off the idea. Even if Labour were to support such an amendment, it would be likely to fail.