If Britain cannot remain in the EU, we need to work in close partnership with it to defend the rights of workers, consumers and the environmentby Peter Mandelson / September 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
It shows how far Britain remains in the grip of Brexitmania that a modicum of common sense from the Labour Party—that we should continue in Europe’s single market, with its attendant trading rights and social protections, until a new deal falls into place—should be controversial.
Is Labour’s latest stance sensible or not? Yes, if you think the economy and living standards matter. No, if your nationalist feelings are more important to you.
But perhaps the term “Brexitmania” is misplaced. It suggests fervour, when a more accurate description of Britain’s current state of mind is something closer to torpor. Leave voters think we have left already or are relaxed about bearing the costs when we do. Remain voters vainly hope that Theresa May will eventually come to her senses.
Where should those of us who are Brexit sceptics take our argument from here?
One school of thought is that we should just sit back and wait for Brexit to defeat Brexit, given the mess the government is making of it. The alternative view is that it behoves the government’s critics to show how the negotiation could be handled differently and better, giving them moral authority when the negotiation fails.
I think we have to take the second course—without pretending there is anything like a perfect Brexit, or looking as if we are praying for failure. After all, when failure occurs, you can be sure the Brexiters will be busy scapegoating all of us at home and in Brussels.
The public is becoming aware that Brexit is not going as smoothly as expected, a process dogged by complex negotiation in which Britain—surprise, surprise—does not hold all the cards. Instead of frictionless trade we are looking at customs controls and costs. And instead of more money for the NHS we are awaiting a whacking great exit bill.
It is also becoming clear that the new tailored trade deal the government wants will not be on offer from the EU, and what the EU27 are prepared to give will come with strings that the government won’t accept. The same is true for prospective new trade deals with other nations; just ask Japan or India. This was all anticipated during the referendum—except that it was unprovable and nobody was listening anyway.