At the election the people voted again for Brexit – it’s time Labour trusted them and accepted their decision

At the election the people voted again for Brexit – it’s time Labour trusted them and accepted their decision

Boris Johnson has returned to Westminster to honour the pledges of the campaign. There will be no more Brexit betrayal. Britain will leave the EU in January 2020, the transition phase will end next December. Further delay is ruled out under the EU Withdrawal Bill due to have its Second Reading today.

One year after exit, the writ of EU law will cease. There will be no extension. The UK will negotiate an agreement for future UK-EU trade. But if the EU drags its feet or refuses to recognise the UK’s status as a sovereign nation, the UK will trade on WTO terms from January 2021.

Now that the people have spoken and returned a majority of MPs to execute their will, Parliament has no choice but to get Brexit done and done on these terms. The Labour Party, if it is to heal the rifts and hatreds of defeat, should now, and on these terms, make its peace with the people.

Many Labour voters come from the same stock as Conservatives. Loyalty to party comes second to an older loyalty, to constitutional freedom and the life and soul of Britain’s democracy: its laws, constitutional arrangements and its political system in which sovereignty rests with them.

When last Thursday Labour voters had decided to vote again for Brexit, they put their trust in the leader who, heart and soul, backed this goal too. They did so in the knowledge that, if Boris Johnson won enough seats, it would be third time lucky, not only for Brexit, but for their democratic system and their liberty, including that of free men and women to determine the laws under which they are governed.

Labour’s ruling mavericks appear to think differently. Its leadership blamed Brexit for defeat; its Shadow Foreign Secretary (previously sacked for disparaging white-van man) denies she called the voters ‘stupid’; its Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, has begun to repeat the language from the previous Parliament that eventually ruined his party, now claiming the Prime Minister’s proposals for departure are ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and that the PM is ‘prepared to put people’s jobs at risk’.

These leaders, utterly removed from the Labour Party’s identity as a party formed to play its part in Britain’s political and democratic system in 1906, seem to have a problem with both democracy and the voters who support it. Unless that changes and the party re-discovers the democratic path it was founded to follow, and unless it rules out the way of the revolutionary, or neo-Marxist, or socialist left, to become once more a party of government by respecting the ballot box, Labour will not win.

When, at the start of election night, Blyth Valley (Labour-held since 1935) fell to the Tories, the new MP, Ian Levy, promised he would ‘be on that train to London on Monday… we’re going to get Brexit done and build a strong economy for the UK together’. Many former Labour voters wished him well to execute their vote. Their Blyth Valley had returned a Brexiteer last time, Ronnie Campbell, true Labour. And it was the first of a series of Labour fortresses to fall that night as the party’s traditional voters backed democracy over autocracy, British voters being amongst the most savvy the world has known.

In the months to come they will be watching, hawk-like, the battles to come: battles about the economy, about how the lines of the future trade deals are drawn, battles to be fought and won. The Labour Party should trust the people who as long ago as 2016 voted to take back control of UK laws. That goes for the laws on worker protection, on which the leadership is demanding UK alignment with EU law. Yet in many areas it is the UK that pioneered radical social measures to protect working people against the vicissitudes and bad luck in life. That will not stop.

Boris Johnson made clear from the outset when he first set out his stall to then European Council President, Donald Tusk, last August. The laws and regulations of the UK would, he said, potentially diverge from those of the EU after the transition. Standards would be equally high, but would be achieved, potentially through different laws. ‘That is the point of our exit and our ability to enable this is central to our future democracy’. It is, he might also have added, central to our economy.