Jeremy Corbyn must resist the calls to back a second EU referendum

Jeremy Corbyn must resist the calls to back a second EU referendum

The concerted effort to bounce the Labour Party into supporting a second referendum must be defeated; it is an affront to the millions who voted to Leave the EU and even greater number who want the Government and Parliament to get on with it. A second referendum by any name is a device to renege on the 2016 referendum result.

It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim to respect the Brexit vote yet make plans to reverse it. Having a second referendum if the first goes ‘the wrong way’ is the practice of the EU and one of the reasons why many people wanted out of that undemocratic institution. It is not the practice of the trade union and labour movement – it is inconsistent with our democratic traditions.

John Maynard Keynes’ famous retort to those who criticised him for changing his views on an economic question – “When the facts change, I change my mind” – is frequently quoted to justify the call for a second referendum. But what are the facts associated with the EU referendum? The electorate were asked “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European union?”

The only fact in that question is the subject of the question, namely the European Union. During the referendum campaign various views were expressed in support of one side or the other; some exaggerated claims were made on both sides. There were Osborne’s warnings of recession, a house price slump, soaring food prices and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and on the other side there was a famous slogan on a bus; that’s the nature of political campaigning. But these views and claims were opinions, not facts.

The only fact is the EU and the EU has not changed. In fact, Brussels makes a virtue of its inflexibility; they have consistently stated that the rules of the Single Market and the Customs Union are sacrosanct and not open to change to accommodate Brexit. The EU remains highly bureaucratic, wasteful and undemocratic.

The freedom of movement of labour, capital, goods and services remains the cornerstone of the Single Market and the Customs Union. The rules regarding state aid, public ownership, procurement, mandatory competitive tendering and VAT rates remain the same. The neo-liberal free market ideology continues to be the underlying philosophy behind the economic model of the EU.

Also unchanged is the irreconcilability of Labour’s economic and social programme with the EU’s rules and procedures. Those who claim that this isn’t the case because exemptions may be sought are like those who insist that there is no problem parking a car in central London because in some locations, on certain streets, at particular times, on weekends, parking is permitted for an hour or two. Labour’s programme for re-setting and re-balancing the economy is equivalent to parking not one car but a whole fleet of cars in central London, not to mention one or two heavy goods vehicles, such is the comprehensive nature of Labour policies under Corbyn.

The latest desperate attempt to reverse Brexit is a so-called “People’s Vote”, a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Any comparison between such a vote and that of trade union members agreeing to put forward a pay and conditions claim to their employer and then voting on the final outcome of negotiations, is facile. The purpose of the latter, is to advance and enforce the agreed policy; the former seeks to reverse it.

Brexit, leaving the EU, does not determine the future direction of the country; it provides the conditions for its people, contingent upon leaving the EU, to give us the freedoms we are denied being members of the EU. These are the freedoms that Jeremy Corbyn talked about in his speech at Coventry earlier this year when he said: “the next Labour government will broaden the scope of the ‘public interest test’ to include explicit consideration of the needs of our economy taking advantage of new freedoms outside of the EU to allow Government to intervene to protect our industrial base”.

Jeremy Corbyn and his team have to ensure that they do nothing that could be used to reverse or even delay our departure on 29th March next year; once we cross the finishing line, the gloves are off.