There is no way of making Brexit work—but there are ways to contain the damage. Sadly, Labour won’t commit to themby Oliver Kamm / June 29, 2017 / Leave a comment
Labour has long had problems with the idea of Europe. A statement by the party’s National Executive Committee in 1950 worried that European Union would act as a brake on socialist policies and that a customs union would cause “serious dislocation, unemployment and loss of production.” Its sister social democratic parties got on regardless with the task of constructing the early institutions of European integration.
Labour’s mistrust of the EU had historic consequences. Jeremy Corbyn’s feeble campaigning in the referendum campaign, coupled with his incomprehension of the issues at stake, ensured that many Labour voters were unaware of the party’s support for Remain. A year since the Brexit vote, it would be a euphemism to say Labour’s stance is in flux. No one knows what it is. While the Tories embark on tearing down Britain’s trading relationships and diplomatic alliances, Labour stumbles along behind crying: “Yes! But perhaps not so loud, please…”
A credible European stance would have a set of aims and acknowledged trade-offs. The policies announced by Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesperson, in the general election campaign made no sense at all, being essentially a series of bromides about wanting good things from Europe but not being prepared to pay for them. “We do not believe,” said Starmer “that leaving the EU means severing our ties with Europe. We do not believe that Brexit means weakening workers’ rights and environmental protections or slashing corporate tax rates.”
Brexit means all of those things, and more. According to Starmer, Labour won’t make immigration control the centrepiece of its Brexit plan, but opposes freedom of movement. He thereby contradicted Corbyn’s own stated position on freedom of movement, at least supposing (as they sometimes don’t) that Corbyn’s views on one day match those he holds on another. Labour wants an agreement with the EU but isn’t clear what should be in it. Pressed on what would happen if the EU declined to reopen a negotiation rejected by parliament, Starmer was unequivocal: “We have to cross each bridge when we get to it.”
“A rational Labour Party would realise that collective goals like environmental protection and workers’ rights are enhanced by Europe”
This is risible but typical. Labour’s Brexit policy is in the hands of…