Brexit Armageddon is almost upon us. In just over a week, our prime minister’s botched half-in, half-out, half-baked deal will face its judgement day. No one, and I mean no one, including large swathes of her cabinet, expects parliament to do anything other than vote against it.
Thirty months after David Cameron’s ill-fated referendum, we are no closer to putting something in front of the people which will bring together our divided country. For that to happen, we need the implementation of Labour’s 2017 election manifesto, For The Many.
If people think Brexit is the solution to our deep and growing inequality, they are simply asking the wrong question. Only a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government can start turning around the fortunes of far too many of our people who have been left behind. Any Brexit at all will accentuate their plight by weakening the economy.
Conservative Central Office hoped the 2016 referendum would draw a line under decades of Tory strife regarding the European Union. It was a miscalculation of gargantuan proportions; the Tory Party now teeters on the brink of a Corn Laws-like split.
Not only did Cameron and his strategists hopelessly fail in their attempt to bring their divided party together, the referendum also created a bitter campaign of xenophobia which has divided the rest of us. From “Go Home” vans to posters insinuating that Turkish migrants were about to “swamp” Britain, the poisonous framing of migrants has diminished us as a people and left deep wounds. Sadly, fear, prejudice and hate took centre stage as we debated our future relationship with the EU.
So, our Labour Party is right to whip our MPs to vote against May’s rotten deal. What she is bringing back to Westminster is not based on what’s best for our country’s future. Instead, at its heart, it reinforces the prejudices of many Tory Brexiteers.
So far, her rallying call is all about ending freedom of movement. Never mind that this will restrict our ability to work, live and love in more than 30 countries across Europe. Our children are unlikely to thank the Tories for their myopic choice. It’s not good enough to have our future relationship with the EU defined by the Tories narrow narrative – immigration, immigration, immigration. And no sane economist thinks that Brexit is in our economic interests.
May’s botched Brexit job also fails to safeguard workers’ rights and environmental standards, contrary to the prime minister’s “taking back control” rhetoric. Brexit removes our say – we are rendered voiceless.
Thankfully, Jeremy Corbyn has got the measure of May on all this. That’s why all our Labour MPs must follow him into the division lobby to sink it without trace. There’s simply no excuse for any of them to line up with the government – no room for traitors. Our movement doesn’t forget or absolve those who get into bed with a Tory government, particularly one which has imposed the needless misery of austerity on millions of our citizens.
So once we have the vote in parliament and May’s deal goes down, let’s strain every sinew to bring this wretched government down with it – nothing else will do.
However, if the Tories continue putting their own sectional interests before those of the country by not calling a general election, Labour must support giving the public the chance to force a “no Brexit” scenario.
John McDonnell’s recent comments about a Final Say referendum have been very encouraging but sadly, I don’t buy his inevitability theory. Lurking in the background is the Tories’ Plan B – Norway Plus.
This is something which appears to be uniting Tory Brexiteers and Remainers alike. This option is also gathering steam. The Norway Plus option already curries favour with the SNP, while the DUP has also said it could live with it.
Beyond doubt Norway Plus, other than no Brexit at all, is the least damaging option on offer – a pointless-in-name-only Brexit. It provides frictionless trade, full access to the single market and no hard border in Ireland.
On the face of it, many MPs from across the political spectrum may be tempted to take this route. However, no party of the left can accept a proposition which makes us a rule-taker forever and a day.
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This is all about Brussels taking full control in return for our greater economic well-being. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Labour must seize the moment before Tory mutineers put their Plan B to the Commons.
Our party, the people’s party, must give the British public the chance to be able to grasp the best deal on offer – and that will always be no Brexit at all.
Manuel Cortes is general secretary of the TSSA rail union
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