On Brexit, Labour hasn't got a clue

There is little evidence Labour actually understand the implications of their own policies, which, on Brexit, are in any case all over the place. They are cynical and confused because they can't fully accept Brexit's democtratic mandate. Voters will rightly punish them

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Corbyn never really backed democracy
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Joseph Hackett
On 9 December 2016 07:54

Labour have incessantly criticised the Government for supposedly lacking a Brexit ‘plan’ in a line of attack which culminated on Wednesday in a Parliamentary motion, brought by Labour, demanding the government publish its plans before invoking Article 50.

Meanwhile Labour’s Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, continues to threaten to amend any Article 50 bill in Parliament to force the Government to commit to certain negotiating positions.

When the Government accepted Labour’s motion, and proposed an amendment recognising the result and calling for Article 50 to be invoked by March, they shone the spotlight on how deep Labour’s cluelessness goes.

Corbyn’s attempt to embarrass the Government has clearly backfired spectacularly. While Labour officially supported the amendment, around one third of their MPs either abstained or voted against it -- even three shadow ministers were among those who voted against.

Labour are in no position to throw stones at the Government. Nobody could accuse them of being short on plans, but they have the problem of being buried under a pile of different Brexit-related ideas, most of which either contradict each other or are totally unworkable.

Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis, for example, has suggested all EU workers migrating here should be forced into a trade union; while his Shadow Cabinet colleague, Diane Abbott, defends EU free movement as it stands.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants London to somehow issue its own visas. And Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer took exception to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s claim last month that Brexit is an “enormous opportunity”.

This division in the party is not unexpected. Last month, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who voted against the amendment on Wednesday, was recently recorded telling a meeting in her London constituency -- a Remain stronghold -- that Labour “hasn’t actually made a decision” on whether it would support an Article 50 bill. This despite Corbyn publicly insisting Labour would not try to block Article 50. Do they not talk to each other?

While it remains to be seen whether the majority will stick to their position, it seems we can now add their support for invoking Article 50 by the end of March to the stunningly short list of official stances Labour have on Brexit.

Most of these stances are, frankly, bizarre. Though, as Starmer reiterated to Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning show, Labour oppose a ‘hard Brexit’, they have declined to take a conventional ‘soft Brexit’ line. In language not unlike the Government’s, Starmer speaks about “the fullest possible” access to the Single Market -- not Single Market membership.

Labour have instead decided to strongly advocate Britain remaining in the EU’s Customs Union, meaning no control over our trade policy. They also support our remaining subject to the European Court of Justice, and therefore not retaking control over our laws.

The ‘Leave’ campaign, and the entire Eurosceptic movement, were consistently clear before the Referendum -- Brexit should mean control over our trade policy and our laws. Labour’s plans would clearly betray the Referendum mandate.

There is little evidence Labour actually understand the implications of their own policies. Successive Labour MPs have struggled to explain their support for the Customs Union when interviewed. Rebecca Long-Bailey, for example, denied the fact Britain would be unable to make its own free-trade agreements from within the Customs Union, even though the entire point of a Customs Union is its members make trade deals and set tariffs as a single bloc.

Sir Keir recently offered some explanation for Labour’s confused Brexit stance. He claimed they want to “bring the country back together,” alleging the Conservatives and UKIP speak only for a portion of the 17.4 million Brexit voters, and the Liberal Democrats for the pro-EU minority.

Political cynicism, rather than serious evaluation of which deal would serve Britain best, appears to best explain Labour’s stance. Their support for the Customs Union and ECJ could be an attempt to please their more fanatically pro-EU supporters; while their reluctance to support Single Market membership and free movement could be an appeal to working-class ‘Leave’ voters.

We at Get Britain Out believe this will not work. People will see Labour’s Brexit stance for the confused, cynical nonsense it is. Each interview demonstrates how clueless they are. Their clumsy attempt to appeal to everybody will ultimately please nobody.

Though Labour have blamed their dreadful performance in the Richmond Park by-election last week on tactical voting, the fact they even lost their deposit speaks volumes. They risk losing much of their Remain-voting base, especially in London, to the LibDems.

Labour’s cluelessness is also an opportunity for UKIP and the Conservatives alike. Labour MPs considering frustrating the will of their Brexit-supporting constituents should be particularly worried about the next general election. And thanks to the Government’s commitment to Brexit, the Conservatives have a unique chance to connect with working-class voters who have historically been loyal to Labour.

Though the Conservatives might benefit from UKIP siphoning off some working-class Labour votes in marginal seats, they should not leave this important group for other parties to fight over. Thanks to their confusion over Brexit, it’s open season on Labour -- and everyone else can take advantage.

Joseph Hackett is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out

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