Why voting Labour is the logical next step after the Brexit vote

Why voting Labour is the logical next step after the Brexit vote

The dip in the support for the Tories was predictable ever since Labour launched its manifesto outlining its position on Brexit. This brought the two parties closer together as far as the central issues of Brexit are concerned: both supported invoking Article 50; both agree that leaving the EU means leaving the single market; both agree that leaving the EU means an end to the freedom of movement of labour. The question for voters suddenly changed from “who fully embraces Brexit?” to “who is best equipped to deliver the clean Brexit the country voted for and what sort of Britain we want now that we have taken back control?”

What wasn’t expected, however, is Theresa May’s public wobble on a major policy issue. It was disappointing that Theresa May should take fright and change a major manifesto policy on social care by introducing a cap of an unspecified level to elderly care, calling it a ‘clarification’. The disappointment is not because the original policy was right; on the contrary, the ‘clarification’ had to be made. The disappointment arose because the incident throws a spotlight on the PM’s portrayal of herself as strong and stable. If she cuts and runs after a bit of huff and a bit of puff, then what would she do when she comes face to face with the hostility of the EU27 across the negotiating table? Her claim that she is the person to be trusted with delivering a good deal with the EU27 looks jaded, to say the least.

Contrast this with Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone who had to cope with the hostility of a majority of his MPs, vitriolic personal attacks and vilification by the media, two leadership elections in the space of just over a year and win them both and still keep his party together in a good shape to fight a snap general election as Corbyn has, must have oodles of inner strength, determination and, above all, tenacity which would stand him in good stead in any EU negotiations.

May’s line that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ sounds strong, tough and determined but was exposed as vacuous when she warned of the ‘dire consequences’ of no deal. This, coupled with her refusal to say that she would be prepared to walk away without a deal when asked several times by Jeremy Paxman, means that she will accept any deal rather than walk away. She can then claim it to be a good deal almost by definition because if it wasn’t, her ‘no deal better than a bad deal’ would have kicked in. Her position is not dissimilar to Labour’s ‘leaving the EU with no deal is the worst possible deal for Britain’.

Both positions are irreconcilable with the vote to leave the EU. The electorate expect that once the two-year period specified by Article 50 is over, the UK will be out of the EU and if there is no deal, revert back to the World Trade Organisation rules. Any equivocation on this would be rightly seen as a betrayal. But both parties seem to have swallowed the fiction that reverting to World Trade Organisation rules will be a calamity of unimaginable proportions, as though WTO was some sort of monster organisation rather than the body that lays down the rules for how most trade is actually conducted.

Grandstanding and histrionics apart – and there has been plenty of those from both the EU and the Tory government – everyone knows that the outcome of any set of negotiations depends on what common ground the two sides share. In the case of the Tories and the EU, the common ground is vast. They share the same free market ideology, the same attachment to austerity, the same love of flogging off public assets to private corporations, the same commitments to deregulation of capital and the same aversion to trade union rights, not to mention the same commitment to military intervention abroad as a legitimate foreign policy tool.

The very opposite is true for Labour. In fact, Labour’s major policies – those of ending austerity, taking back the railways and other utilities into public ownership, supporting British industry and promoting regional development – are in complete contrast to the EU’s hard-wired policies. Labour cannot but have the clean break with the EU which we voted for, if only in order to have any chance of implementing any of its own manifesto commitments.

It follows that on 8th June, the natural next step to having voted to leave the EU is to vote Labour as the government most likely to deliver a clean and clear Brexit.