Politics is about choices. And over the past two years Theresa May has made all the wrong ones on Brexit.
She laid down irresponsible red lines at the start of the negotiations, narrowing our options to those acceptable to the Brexiteers and the DUP. And, after suffering the biggest defeat in parliamentary history, she chose to recklessly run down the clock rather than seek a credible way through the impasse.
When the prime minister brings back her deal in the next week or so, she will try to impose a choice on MPs: my deal or no deal.
That is a choice we, the Labour Party and the majority in parliament must reject. The future of our country is too important for us to have to pick between bad and really bad. We need another option.
Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to throw his backing behind a public vote provides a way through this crisis. Jeremy is right. The public should have the final say.
This isn’t about overturning the previous referendum, but about empowering the country to confirm or reject the negotiated outcome. It’s about preventing the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit. And it’s about trying to draw a line under two years of division, disruption and uncertainty brought about by an incompetent Tory government.
We know it may not be the choice many of our colleagues will want to take. Frankly, it wasn’t the choice we thought would face us at this stage of the process when we triggered Article 50 two years ago. However, it is the only choice left for Labour and for parliament if we want to protect the long-term future of our country and our communities.
The question now is how MPs can work together to bring about that public vote. We believe the plan put forward by our Labour colleagues Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson is the most credible way forward. It offers a sensible compromise.
We believe the prime minister’s deal is flawed. However, we are willing to accept it on the condition that it is put back to the people to approve or reject. If the public choose to approve the deal, then we will leave on the government’s terms and we will help facilitate the passage of the necessary laws to implement the deal. If the public reject it, then we remain in the European Union.
The proposal is compatible with Labour Party policy for a public vote between a credible Leave option and Remain. It is also in line with what Jeremy Corbyn told the House of Commons on Tuesday when he said that, if Theresa May’s deal is approved by parliament, “there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel that that is what they voted for”.
This is about doing what is in the national interest, but it is also about doing what is right for our party.
As members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, we know that this is a difficult time for our movement on Brexit and beyond.
Our members and supporters want the reassurance that we will remain united behind our shared values of internationalism, solidarity, democracy and equality for all.
That means doing all we can to protect the country from a no-deal or disastrous Tory Brexit. And that means fulfilling the promise we made at our party’s annual conference to deliver and campaign for a public vote.
Margaret Beckett is former deputy leader of the Labour Party; she and George Howarth represent the Parliamentary Labour Party on the National Executive Committee; George Howarth is also chair of the party’s International Policy Commission
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies