Oxford City Council have voted overwhelmingly to support a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
The motion was initially suggested by Green Party councillors, and follows a letter signed by 16 Labour councillors calling for a referendum on the final deal, joining their Liberal Democrat and Green colleagues.
34 councillors were in favour of the motion, with six against and two abstaining.
Green councillor for St. Mary’s ward, Craig Simmons, said: “I am encouraged by the cross-party support for this Green Group motion calling on a People’s Vote on the terms of any Brexit Deal. It is important to now spread the word and encourage other local authorities to pass similar motions.
“In this way we can build upon the groundswell of support for a second referendum and give MPs the courage to take a different path.”
Oxford SU President, Joe Inwood, told Cherwell: “We need a People’s Vote to tell the government it has taken the wrong path through the Brexit process.
“Oxford students know how to spot a debating society charlatan when we see one – Boris Johnson needs holding to account for his false promises. The voices of students and young people have been ignored ever since the referendum. A bad deal will hit us hardest, yet the government are totally deaf to our concerns.”
Speaking to Cherwell, Dominic Brind, a Magdalen student and spokesperson of Our Future Our Choice, said: “This is great news and shows that the Council are awake to the democratic necessity of a People’s Vote.
“It shows a willingness to give the student body, who make up a sizeable portion of the city’s population, the opportunity to have a say over their futures that many of them lacked in 2016’s deficient referendum.”
Councillor for St Clement’s ward, Tom Hayes, was one of the principal organisers of the Labour councillors’ letter, which said Brexit would “harm all our futures” and underlined the potential dangers for the NHS following a trade deal negotiated with “chest-thumping nationalist” Donald Trump.
Cllr Hayes told Cherwell: “Theresa May is in office, but Jacob Rees-Mogg is in power.
“The people who recently re-elected me with a larger majority and vote did so because I was calling for a People’s Vote. Since co-signing the letter, I’m pleased to have received 100% support from my ward.
“The Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit, Sir Keir Starmer, is on record as being open to a People’s Vote, as are a large number of constituency Labour Parties and MPs including David Lammy.
“As Europe’s biggest party, Labour is a highly democratic member-led organisation, and I’m calling for a People’s Vote and standing on this platform in the elections to the National Policy Forum of my party.”
The Labour councillors’ letter also deemed Brexit a “disaster for working people”. Most obviously at risk are the 4,500 staff employed at Cowley’s flagship MINI plant. In June, BMW announced that they would be forced to close down sites in the UK if Brexit caused customs delays during the shipments of car parts. The Guardian reported that a “full or part closure would have a devastating impact for the surrounding area.”
Labour councillors who voted against the motion included Sajjad Malik, Deputy Lord Mayor, whilst council leader, Susan Brown, abstained.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Carfax ward, Conor McKenzie, told Cherwell: “It is great to see that some Labour councillors have joined the cause, though still a shame that many have followed the party’s lead nationally of either supporting the Conservatives’ pursuit of a Hard Brexit or dithering with people’s future by abstaining.
“What disappointed me most is that a Labour councillor in each Holywell, Carfax and North wards voted against this motion. These areas are overwhelmingly student and voted by more than 80% to Remain, so this is a huge let-down.”
Only Liverpool and Oxford City Councils officially support a People’s Vote. Other councils, such as Swansea, are exploring the possibility of voting on the matter.