Labour’s election gains relied on accepting the Tories’ Brexit agenda

Labour’s election gains relied on accepting the Tories’ Brexit agenda

The moment when the general election manifesto of the Labour Party was amended to include ‘freedom of movement will end as we leave the European Union’ was the moment when Theresa May’s campaign began to unravel. The two parties, having voted to invoke Article 50, had coalesced as far as the main aspects of Brexit, namely leaving the single market and ending the freedom of movement of labour. Attention thus moved to other issues such as austerity, social care, the NHS, education, public ownership and support for British industry, all of which favoured Corbyn and the Labour Party. The younger generation were enthused with hope of a different future, a brighter future that Corbyn offered. The result is a hung parliament with the Conservatives having the largest number of MPs and able only to form a minority government.

The outcome of the general election is seen as a Godsend by those who still wish to subvert the result of the EU referendum. For them it’s time to confusticate and divert. On the one hand, Theresa May’s posturing with ‘no deal better than a bad deal’ is disparaged as hard and ideologically motivated. Some deep-seated ideology – she was on the Remain side during the EU referendum campaign. On the other hand, Labour’s ‘prioritising jobs and living standards’ is characterised as secretly pro-Remain and practical, forgetting that Corbyn is one of the original group of Labour eurosceptics.

Some are deliberately conflating and confusing ‘access to the single market’ with ‘membership of the single market’ as if anyone wishing to trade with the EU’s single market must be a member of it in the first place. It is true that Labour’s formulation of ‘prioritising jobs and living standards’ was a euphemism for staying in the single market extensively used by Remainers after the EU referendum; however, in the context of leaving the single market, such a proposition is the only sensible guide to our relations with the EU and, for that matter, any other foreign market.

The direction of travel agreed by both main parties – that of respecting the result of the EU referendum, leaving the EU, leaving the single market and ending freedom of movement – is clear and cannot be sidetracked or pushed into the long grass. The fact that we are likely to have a minority government for a while need not delay our departure from the EU or hinder our exit negotiations. After all, most of the negotiations take place between groups of civil servants from both sides and work can go on regardless. Any party that attempts to hinder the process for party political advantage would be severely punished by the electorate as they did to Theresa May when she was perceived to have called a general election for her party’s advantage.

The task of both the Labour and Conservative parties, indeed the task of the new Parliament, is to deliver to the British people the clean and clear Brexit they voted for, with the best possible deal with the EU in line with the timetable set up by the triggering of Article 50. The precise nature of the ‘best possible deal’ will evolve during negotiations and cannot be prescribed in advance. The process of negotiations is not as frightening as those who wish to reverse the EU vote want us to believe. Those who continually speak of ‘difficult and complex’ negotiations are attempting to prepare the public for backsliding on the referendum vote. At the end of the day, we can always revert to the World Trade Organisation normal rules of trade.

The electorate gave Theresa May a bloody nose from which she will not be able to recover. Workers, especially young workers, were looking for an end to Tory austerity and the stifling economics of the free market. They were looking for a change and found it in the political platform of the Labour Party, a platform of public ownership, supporting British industry and promoting regional development as well as ending austerity and increased funding for health and education – policies that could not be contemplated, let alone put forward in a manifesto, had we not invoked Article 50.

On 23rd June 2016, the older generation rescued the nation from the European Union. Twelve months later, they gave the nation to the younger generation to shape in a way that would only be possible having voted to leave the EU.