Published on September 27, 2017

Citizens’ Assembly to vote on trade and immigration policy for UK after Brexit

Citizens' Assembly on Brexit

By Tim Hughes

Tim is director of Involve. He took over leadership of the organisation in January 2017, having previously led Involve’s open government programme and the UK Open Government Network (OGN).

A randomly selected group of citizens from across the UK will vote this weekend on preferences for the UK’s trade and immigration policy after Brexit – including whether we should remain members of the Single Market, seek a bespoke trade deal, or go it alone.

As well as deliberating on the options, Assembly members will be addressed by prominent Brexit advocate Graham Brady MP – Chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee – and Labour’s Kate Green MP, a Single Market supporter.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit [1] is seeking to put voters’ voices at the centre of the EU debate following fevered debate in parties over what direction negotiations should take. It brings together 51 randomly selected members of the public who reflect the diverse make-up of the electorate as a whole. Their views will be compiled in a major report to be presented to MPs in Westminster in November.

Timetable

Fri 29 September to Sun 01 October, Marriott Hotel, Manchester Airport.

  • Friday: Assembly members will travel to Manchester for evening meetings. Conservative MP Graham Brady and Labour MP Kate Green [2] will briefly address the Assembly at around 19.30 and answer members’ questions.
  • Saturday, 09:00 to around 17:30: Members will deliberate throughout the day on their priorities, and how the various Brexit options will match these.
  • Sunday, 09:30 to around 13:30: Assembly members will deliberate further and vote on their preferences for Brexit. Voting results will be announced around 12:00 and 13:00 to Assembly members and journalists present.

This event follows an initial weekend of learning and deliberation earlier this month, when Assembly Members shared their own priorities and heard from leading experts on all sides and none. They explored how the various options might impact the economy, jobs, public services, sovereignty, and other matters.

This final weekend comes at a crucial time as the UK/EU negotiations move towards discussion of future relations as well as the terms of the ‘divorce deal’. Assembly members are particularly considering the relationship that the UK should seek with the EU after Brexit on trade and immigration.

The Assembly has secured high-profile backing from across the so-called ‘Brexit divide’ – including Nicky Morgan MP, Bernard Jenkin MP, Chuka Umunna MP, leading Brexit campaigners Harsimrat Kaur and John Mills, Britain Stronger in Europe Director Will Straw, UKIP’s Suzanne Evans, and senior Brexit expert and academic Professor Anand Menon.

Dr Alan Renwick, Principal Investigator, said:

“The final weekend of the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit couldn’t come at a more pressing time. As the negotiations ramp up, it’s vital that voters themselves have a say on what Brexit should look like. This randomly selected group of citizens will offer the deepest insight yet into what the public really think on the key Brexit trade-offs on trade and immigration.

“The Citizens’ Assembly brings together voters of all shades of opinion and from all parts of the UK to chart what Brexit should look like. It offers vital insights for politicians from across the spectrum –and bears watching closely.”

The recommendations will be written up in a final report and presented to key decision-makers at a high-profile Westminster event.

Further Information

For more information on the project visit the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit website.

The Assembly will be tweeted during the weekend from @ConUnit_UCL and @UKAssemblies, using the hashtag #BrexitAssembly

[1] Citizens’ Assemblies have been increasingly used across Europe and North America to formulate proposals on key policy and constitutional issues often associated with referendums – with Ireland’s Constitutional Convention, based on the citizens’ assembly model, recently leading the way towards the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit has 51 members who have been selected with the assistance of polling company ICM to reflect the diversity of the UK’s population in terms of gender, age, place of residence, social class, ethnicity, and attitudes to Brexit. The Assembly’s ideas will enrich public debates over the form that Brexit should take, just at the time when key choices and trade-offs are crystallising.

The project is part of the ESRC-funded ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ initiative, and is the first example of deep public deliberation on what form Brexit should take. It is organised by leading academics at UCL’s Constitution Unit, in partnership with the University of Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Southampton, Involve, and the Electoral Reform Society.

As well as being a major democratic project, the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit will lead to a range of academic outputs, alongside comment pieces, blogs and social media work – offering new insights into how democratic decision-making is best organised.

The project team has worked closely with others in developing the Assembly plans, including parliamentarians, experts, journalists, and campaigners on all sides of the Brexit debate. This helps ensure that the approach taken is scrupulously even-handed. The full membership of the project’s Advisory Board is available on the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit website.

The project team already has expertise in running similar assemblies – including conducting the UK’s first citizens’ assemblies on local devolution in Sheffield and Southampton in late 2015. For more information on these visit the Citizens’ Assembly website.

[2] Graham Brady is Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, and Chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee. He is a keen supporter of Brexit.

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, and was a signatory to this week’s letter by Labour figures to the Observer newspaper calling for continued Single Market membership.

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