By Ben Sladden
With the High Court ruling on 4 November that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without consulting Parliament, it seems likely that a vote could be put before MPs on whether or not to trigger the clause that would begin the process of Britain exiting the European Union.
Many staunch Brexiteers recoiled in horror at the ruling, viewing it as a stitch-up by the ‘metropolitan elite’ to derail the people’s will; the right-wing press lambasted the judges as “enemies of the people”.
96% of Labour MPs who declared a view on the referendum voted to remain. For many, this suggests Labour might use a parliamentary vote to try to stop Article 50 being triggered.
Labour’s official position appears ambiguous: initially, Corbyn stated that Labour might vote against triggering the clause in the Lisbon Treaty if the Prime Minister failed to agree to the Party’s “Brexit bottom line” – in essence a “soft Brexit”.
Within 24 hours, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson maintained that “the people have spoken and Article 50 will be triggered when it gets to Westminster”.
Despite the ambiguity from the Party’s upper ranks, it remains unlikely that MPs will vote en masse to block Brexit – to do so would be considered electoral suicide.
Labour at present is in something of an identity crisis over who it represents. Its failure to win the traditional working-class vote has allowed a lurch to the populist-right – under the purple banner of Ukip.
The Party realises that winning back these voters – many of whom voted to leave the EU – is crucial to the future of the Party outside of metropolitan cities.
What is more likely is that Labour will use the prospect of parliamentary scrutiny to push for a “soft Brexit” – which Corbyn will try to present as the best option for the British people, and will appeal to Remain voters still coming to terms with the referendum result.
Photograph: Maurice via Flickr