Let’s talk Brexit. That subject that has the power to divide families, work colleagues and political parties. Now, let’s talk Labour and Brexit.
It’s often said that Labour have a confused position on Brexit. To some extent, I can see why this is a common perception. With 70% of Labour’s MPs representing Leave voting constituencies, and the rest representing Remain voting ones, there was always going to be a varying degree of support and opposition to Brexit. The Labour membership is divided along similar lines, but in reverse, with 70% of members having voted Remain and one third supporting Brexit.
However, our leader has barely wavered in his stance toward Brexit. Corbyn has said all along that Labour will respect the Referendum result, which means leaving the single market, but has since signed off on an added four plus year transition period and has confirmed that Labour would seek very close regulatory and trade ties with the EU.
It only took someone to read the manifesto or watch any interview with Corbyn during the GE campaign to know what his position was, but that didn’t stop millions of people voting Labour whatever their feelings on Brexit, primarily because they were inspired by our exciting manifesto.
It did, however, mean a much higher than expected number of Ukip voters voted Labour because they had pledged not to block Brexit. The Lib Dems, Green Party and SNP stood on a very clear no Brexit platform, so it’s not as if the electorate had no other anti-Brexit options. However, their vote went down and Labour’s went up. That’s why we should stand up for Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit.
I get that there are a group of people for whom Brexit is everything. However membership of the EU didn’t save us from greater work insecurity, soaring student debts, a severe housing shortage, rising poverty and inequality, a crumbling NHS and social care system, a horrendous rise in food bank use and severe cuts to our police, schools and fire service. We didn’t live in some kind of utopia within the EU.
Labour are offering very close ties to the EU to offset the economic impact of Brexit, while offering hugely positive changes at home. That is a happy medium for many of us. We will not abandon Labour for the Lib Dems or Greens simply because Labour respect the result of a referendum which was touted as once in a lifetime, only to let the Tories back in to continue running amok.
One final word, beware those on the right of the party who are trying to push for Labour to take a Lib Dem position on Brexit and ask yourself what their motives really are, and what they are ultimately hoping to achieve, particularly given the fact these same MPs were fanning the flames of Brexit with anti-immigration rhetoric when Corbyn was refusing to do the same. Is it Brexit they want to thwart, or Corbyn’s chance to become Prime Minister?