Backing a rerun of the EU referedum would be electoral suicide for the Labour Party. MARSHAJANE THOMPSON explains why Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Article 50 is right
I WAS as devastated as any other Remainer on the morning of last year’s Brexit vote. I had given up months to be part of the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
And I held a place on the steering committee of Another Europe Is Possible; the left-wing alternative to Stronger In, which tried to persuade socialists thinking of voting Leave that a “left exit” was not viable.
Eventually the strength of feeling behind Leave was too great for us to win. But the campaign run by us at Another Europe, by the Labour leadership and by Momentum delivered over two-thirds of the Labour vote.
The Remain establishment have blamed the left for their loss, but we were out trying to win hard arguments while Stronger In were wheeling out the former chancellor George Osborne to threaten people with more austerity. The socialists who backed Remain should be proud of our achievements but we also have to move on.
A rerun of the referendum would alienate and infuriate millions, while handing those in power the licence to ride roughshod over the results of any vote they don’t like. An instrument aimed to make Brexit impossible and thereby result in a rerun — such as blocking Article 50 — is no different. Labour has to exist in the real world, not the ideal one, and in the real world 17 million people voted to leave — more than have voted for any governing party in living memory.
Article 50 is the beginning, not the end, of the Brexit process. A vote to start the process is not siding with the Tories it is simply accepting the democratic result of the referendum. Labour’s eight amendments attempt to put some parameters on the negotiations. Once the negotiations are underway Theresa May can no longer tell us she has a plan and it is hidden in her back pocket somewhere. Labour will press for the negotiations to be in full view of Britain’s Parliament and Britain’s people, where any attempt to turn us into a tax haven, as senior Tories have threatened, will be on full display.
People voted Remain for a range of reasons. Many of these will have included jobs and living standards; opposition to xenophobia; environmental and labour protections and the projects supported by European social funding. There is no reason we cannot — and I will — continue to fight for all of these positions in a post-Brexit Britain. There are other questions we have fewer guarantees over — single market access, for example — where we will have to work from opposition to campaign for the fairest deal we can. All of us who oppose the Tory vision of Brexit should campaign to change it and if unsuccessful oppose the final Bill.
Trying to rerun the referendum will not help stop the rise of the far-right; only huge mobilisations against the politics of hate, such as the shutdowns of airports in response to US President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, can do that.
Labour does not have the power to stop Brexit if it wanted to. Where I have lived and worked on the outskirts of London, there are plenty of potential Labour voters who would not look twice at us if we tried.
Jeremy Corbyn, contrary to the arguments of his critics, is not willing to suspend electoral credibility for an unachievable goal.
There is a far bigger battle to fight. When Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, and again in 2016, he promised to challenge 30 years of an economic system which has stripped wealth and power from working people and concentrated it among a tiny number of people at the top.
He promised a transformative programme that invested in, and handed power to, every community that has been ignored for decades and then clobbered with six years of Tory cuts.
That campaign to rebuild Britain can unite people on both sides of the Remain/Leave divide.
This is not an argument we can make if we take a Groundhog Day approach to last year’s referendum. Such an approach only benefits a PM hoping to avoid real scrutiny of her plans by making everything about the division between the 52 per cent and the 48 per cent.
Jeremy Corbyn is looking to the future — something our political class has forgotten how to do.
Marshajane Thompson is a member of Momentum and part of the Jeremy Corbyn For PM social media page team.
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