May has triggered Article 50. The duty of Opposition is now more crucial than everby Angela Eagle / March 29, 2017 / Leave a comment
In recent months, much energy from pundits and politicians has been expended on debating not Brexit itself and its implications, but instead parliamentary procedure, court judgments and further questions of process. With the triggering of Article 50, the real substance of the debate begins. It ushers in a new phase of uncertainty, as the Three Brexiteers march to Brussels with little clue of what deal they will be able to secure for Britain. Labour can play a critical role in this period. As Britain and parliament deliberate on our precarious future, there has never been more need for a strong Opposition prepared to challenge the government, and provide a clear, coherent alternative.
So far Tory ministers have demonstrated a worryingly authoritarian streak in their treatment of parliament, resisting scrutiny wherever possible and refusing to countenance a truly meaningful vote on the final terms of Brexit. There has been no attempt to bring opponents on side—the views of 48 per cent of voters have been dismissed, while those of the 52 per cent have been blithely misinterpreted as a call for a hard Brexit that could bring about economic catastrophe. And now the survival of the UK itself is at stake, as the SNP launch a predictable and opportunistic bid for a second independence referendum, and a hard border in Ireland looks a real possibility.
In its desperation to pull up the drawbridge and cut immigration from the European Union, the government has conceded that we will be leaving the single market. Exiting the Customs Union will surely follow. The Brexit White Paper states the government’s intention to pursue “a new strategic partnership with the EU” with little detail on what this might look like. There is a real danger that we will be left dependent on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. I am not comforted by Boris Johnson’s assessment that this would be “perfectly OK,” not least because, as research from the campaign Open Britain has shown, it would leave us with an inferior trade arrangement with the EU compared to every other G20 nation. Such an arrangement would include tough barriers to trade and would represent a reckless gamble.