When Labour backed a three-line whip for Article 50, there was uproar among the liberal commentariat. Predictions were made of a Lib Dem surge as Tim Farron’s party, we were told, were now the “real opposition” who represented the 48 per cent. Of course, it later transpired that the 48 per cent was a mythical electoral demographic, as even the vast majority of Remain voters believe that the result of a democratic referendum should be respected.
Labour accepting the result of the referendum and not obstructing Article 50 prohibited Theresa May from fighting an election over Brexit and swallowing up the entire Ukip vote, which would have handed her many constituencies in the north of England and guaranteed her a Conservative majority. Labour’s position on Brexit gave Jeremy Corbyn a platform to win seats in places like Peterborough, where the Ukip candidate even stood down to back the Conservatives.
In terms of what is politically viable, the two choices this country faces are not whether we leave the EU or whether we remain, that question is now settled, and if anyone is angry about this they should direct it at David Cameron for calling the referendum in the first place. But having called it, the vast majority of people accept that the result should now be respected.
So now the question is about which path Britain takes having left. This is why the “Hard Brexit” and “Soft Brexit” framing is unhelpful. To the casual observer, “Soft Brexit” often sounds as though it’s a compromise on leaving the EU, when all it amounts to is maintaining a tariff free trading relationship with the rest of Europe so people don’t lose their jobs and we are not then forced to go down the other path – of turning Britain into a tax haven.
There is a real risk that, without ensuring a trading relationship with Europe, Britain would be forced to cut taxes for big business to offset the high tariffs that exporters would have to pay if we did not have at least a transitional trade deal. Doing otherwise risks businesses relocating abroad, taking our jobs with them.
Without maintaining a trading relationship with the EU, the Conservative government could end up sacrificing workers’ rights, regulations and environmental protections in order to persuade businesses to stay in Britain. Further corporate tax cuts would decimate the tax base, leaving the NHS even more vulnerable to privatisation, and our public services and security at risk.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/17 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
2/17 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
3/17 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
4/17 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
14/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
15/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/17 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
17/17 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
But for many Conservatives, this is their real agenda: to turn Britain into a small state, low tax, low wage, corporate tax haven. And Brexit gives them the perfect cover to implement that. They can simply say that they tried to get a trade deal, but weren’t able to, so now we have no alternative but to push through these reforms. So when many Conservatives say “no deal is better than a bad deal” it is because the consequences of “no deal” would enable them to implement their preferred agenda, an agenda which would be unpalatable to the British people in a regular context.
Conservatives have form for using shocks to convince the British people there is no alternative but to pursue their ideological course. Take George Osborne’s fraudulent argument that we needed to cut public spending to eliminate the deficit in five years. This created a context where the Conservatives were able to drastically shrink the state, while they convinced those who were hardest hit that this was absolutely necessary.
So it should concern all of us that we are sending Conservatives, many of whom think no deal would be the best deal, out to negotiate a trading relationship with Europe to protect jobs in Britain. But if we want to ensure the Conservatives ensure Britain has a trading relationship with Europe after leaving the EU, it will help our case to leave the “Hard” and “Soft” Brexit framing behind, and start talking about a Brexit that protects jobs.Reuse content