Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to rule out No Deal and risks keeping Labour out of power for another generation

Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to rule out No Deal and risks keeping Labour out of power for another generation

Jeremy Corbyn has made the fundamental pillar of Labour’s stance on Brexit to rule out ‘No Deal’ as a position of the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union. After the Prime Minister’s catastrophic defeat in the House of Commons and after scraping home in the No Confidence debate, Theresa May finally extended an offer to opposition parties to meet with her to discuss the way forward. While all opposition parties oppose a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, Jeremy refused to meet with the Prime Minister until she was prepared to rule out No Deal.

Any trade unionist engaged in negotiations will tell you that in order to achieve reasonable concessions in any negotiation, you do not rule out the prospect of no deal at the very start. In a negotiation your opponents, whether they are an employer or a bloc of nations, need to be aware that you are prepared to walk away should expectations not be met. In ruling out the prospect of No Deal, a future Labour Government would risk losing all leverage. One cannot imagine the late Bob Crow or the General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, ruling out ‘No Deal’ when negotiating with employers.

An overwhelming majority of Labour constituencies voted to leave the European Union – around 70%. Estimates of up to 40% of Labour voters in 2017 supported Leave. 78% of the seats Labour has to take from the Tories to win the next general election voted Leave. 72% of Labour’s 25 most vulnerable seats voted Leave. For the Labour Party to ignore these crucial statistics at this critical time is politically ignorant and risks hurling Labour towards a no deal with the British people, namely that we will be out of power for another generation.

No Deal is not something to be scared of. Remainers have been very sophisticated in their presentation of No Deal as a total disaster for the British economy and people. It is a false proposition. Australia has No Deal with the European Union and, believe it or not the, people of that great country on the other side of the world are not living in caves and gnawing on bones to survive. A host of other countries with smaller economies than the United Kingdom have no deal and operate on variations of WTO terms. No Deal is a World Trade deal and the United Kingdom is best placed to take full advantage of those arrangements.

Traction seems to be building in the House of Commons behind the idea that the United Kingdom ought to remain in a Customs Union with the European Union. It makes no sense at all to leave the European Union and then abdicate the ability to determine our own trade policy by ceding that power and responsibility to the European Commission. Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, has previously said such a position would render the United Kingdom a “vassal state.” This, therefore, is surely not a policy Her Majesty’s Opposition should be advocating.

The clock is ticking on the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. With only a matter of weeks before 29th March, the country – while still supportive of Leave – is apprehensive about our Parliament’s inability to secure decent arrangements with the European Union. This is not because Brexit is somehow at fault or that public opinion is turning against the decision to Leave. The reason for our current impasse is because our elected representatives are not delivering on the will of the people. Members of Parliament should remember they are there to serve the people, not to rule the people.

The Labour Party Conference in September last year passed a motion pledging to keep all options on the table. There is a minority view within the Parliamentary Labour Party that we ought to hold another referendum. They are a minority, but a vocal one. Jeremy clearly does not want to hold another referendum, and key Labour figures such as Len McCluskey, and respected Labour MPs such as Caroline Flint and John Mann have all opposed a second referendum. This is because while the metropolitan Labour membership overwhelmingly supports a second referendum, there is no majority for it in the country. Importantly, no demonstrable support exists for it in the 70% of Labour Leave constituencies and no support for it exists in those seats Labour needs to win. But the fundamental reason for not supporting another referendum is because it would totally break the remaining trust that exists between the electors and the elected.

The road ahead will be bumpy and any government, Labour or Conservative, will face challenges in the future. But all parties committed to leaving the European Union by accepting the outcome of the referendum. Labour needs to win back its traditional heartland support that has maintained the party since its inception. We will not do this by supporting a second referendum and we will not do this by accepting any terms offered to us by Brussels. The British people are for Brexit; let Labour be their champion by backing a World Trade Brexit.