Open Letter to Thangam Debbonaire

Dear Thangam,

 As the Labour Party conference begins, there is much debate over the direction of your party’s policy on Brexit. It is unclear whether there will be a formal debate on the subject, but I have no doubt that you will spend a lot of time this weekend discussing the best way forward for your party, our city and our country.

I have emailed you, as one of your constituents, seeking your views on various details of Brexit and asked you to back a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. We have debated on Twitter and as the recently selected Liberal Democrat PPC for Bristol West I have even challenged you to a public forum in the constituency so that we can hear from the people of Bristol West and put forward our arguments for our apparently different strategies. Your response has always been that you don’t believe there is a debate. I respectfully disagree.

Whilst you have firmly and sincerely said that you don’t believe a people’s vote to be the best strategic choice, you have indicated you are open to the arguments.

The case for me is very clear:

  1. That the arguments put forward in 2016 have fallen into dust
  2. the Leave campaign has been found to have broken electoral law
  3. Promises made in the 2016 referendum will in no way match up with the reality of what comes next.
  4. There is no majority in Parliament for any flavour of Brexit, therefore, in order to advance, the final decision must be returned to the people with the option to remain in the European Union.

One argument you have used against this is that you believe a People’s Vote is too risky, and if lost could damage our relationship with the European Union irrevocably. I sympathise with this position, as I too want to have the best relationship with the EU. With all votes and decisions there comes risk, however, the risk any Brexit poses to our relationship with the European Union, the jobs, security and opportunities of my generation and the generations that follow means that I cannot be content to let Brexit pass without a fight.

Barry Gardiner, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn have all made clear that if elected they will take Britain out of the European Union. You have described yourself as pro-European to your core, so how can you be comfortable asking the people of Bristol West to vote for a potential government that will not change course and will take us out of the European Union?

Many of your colleagues, including neighbouring MPs here in Bristol, agree with me that we need a People’s Vote. 71% of Labour supporters back a people’s vote and 79% of your constituents voted to remain. The TUC, NUS and many other unions see the damage that Brexit will do to worker’s rights and environmental protections and demand an exit from Brexit.

We have now less than six months until Brexit day. With Chequers dead in the water, the most likely Brexit is one that wasn’t even considered in June 2016 – a cliff-edge, no deal disaster. As a constituent and fellow European, I beg you to use your voice and influence to change Labour Party policy so we can have a proper and effective opposition to the Government’s Brexit and to join me in calling for a people’s vote on the final deal.

Time is running out. Please take this opportunity to be bold and do what’s right.


Yours sincerely,

James Cox

Liberal Democrats Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson

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