Labour’s Brexit position has little do with the national interest and everything to do with their own self-interest

Labour’s Brexit position has little do with the national interest and everything to do with their own self-interest

It is now clear that there is no limit to the ambitions of Labour Remainers when it comes to modifying the notion of Brexit out of existence.

Keir Starmer’s policy shift – calling for the UK to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union throughout a transitional period – should not be seen as an end point of Labour policy. Rather, it is an opportunist piece of kite flying.

If Labour get away with this softening on Brexit – or even prosper from it thanks to more pro-EU middle class urbanites rallying behind them – then Starmer, backed by the 95 per cent of Labour MPs who supported Remain in the referendum, will push things further still.

As the likes of Lord Wood and Jack Dromey have already made clear, this shift opens up the option for Labour turning against Brexit altogether and either having a permanent transition or opposing departure from the EU outright. This point is also echoed by distinguished Labour Brexiteers such as Gisela Stuart.

So Brexit supporters cannot trust Labour. Promises made in the 2017 manifesto are being thrown overboard.

Rather shockingly, the thing that will determine the Labour Party’s position on Brexit come 2019 and a series of crucial votes in the House of Commons will have little to do with the national interest or respecting the will of the people as expressed on June 23rd 2016.

Rather, it will have everything to do with Labour’s own self-interest, as well as its basic pro-EU disposition.

This should lead every Brexiteer to an unavoidable conclusion: it is vital that Labour is punished for its treachery and that Starmer’s chicanery is seen to fail. Not only will such a spectacle help bring Labour back to its manifesto pledges, it will also serve as a useful encouragement to other parties to keep faith with the referendum result.

So, everyone wishing for a proper Brexit should also be wishing for Labour to slump in the polls over the next few weeks and indeed be doing their bit to make it happen.

To help this process it is vital that pro-Brexit parties make themselves amenable to Eurosceptic Labour voters – just as UKIP was in the months leading up to the 2015 general election. Back then we had come out for extra spending on the NHS, proposed a turnover tax to clamp down on coporate tax avoidance and highlighted the wage compression in working class occupations caused by mass immigration from Eastern Europe.

It was a policy mix which found sufficient favour among a blue collar demographic to help cost people like Ed Balls their seats.

I hope UKIP members participating in the current leadership contest bear in mind the need for our party to have an attractive offer to people who take left-of-centre positions on many issues. I am hugely doubtful that the shrivel-the-state libertarianism and Thatcherite agenda of some candidates is up to that task.

If UKIP ends up with a leader who cannot attract those left-of-centre Eurosceptics who won’t ever vote Tory, then Labour may get away with their latest ruse and start preparing for the next incremental step away from Brexit.

Arguably, the great vacancy in British politics at the moment is for a party of the common sense centre that has just a tinge of economic Leftism and which is avowedly and unashamedly pro-Brexit. Such a party, if it existed, could then do to Labour what UKIP did to the Conservatives in the period from 2011 to 2014 – intimidate them to the extent that they ended up thinking of little else and giving way to Eurosceptic demands.

It is not impossible that UKIP could be that party – and indeed many working class Labour voters who support Brexit also hold socially conservative views and have a “right-wing” outlook on issues such as immigration and foreign aid too, making them natural UKIP considerers.

But any whiff of NHS privatisation, Donald Trump fandom, softness on corporate tax avoidance, prioritising of further tax cuts for the rich or major public spending cuts will surely damn UKIP in the eyes of such key voters.

In those circumstances several million Labour-inclined Eurosceptics may end up feeling disempowered and unable to send a signal that will stop the betrayal of Brexit.

Someone urgently needs to offer several million Brexit supporters who voted Labour in the general election an amenable alternative home. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it is the key task facing Brexit campaigners this autumn.