Above: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Deputy Leader Tom Watson and Gloria De Piero, former Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration at a ‘Labour In for Britain’ EU referendum rally: Image: BBC News

Since the EU referendum result, Labour, like the rest of the country has experienced a period of shock and deep soul searching. Our leader, Jeremy Corbyn spoke on the morning of the 24th June of the party’s need to respect the result of the referendum and move on. In an interview with the BBC he said, “you have to respect the decision people made”, quickly ruling out the possibility of Labour supporting a second referendum [1]


Since June, our new Prime Minister has dazzled the public with her wisdom by giving a detailed, perceptive and helpful commentary that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Four months on and we are nowhere. A series of right-wing cabinet appointments, conferences, meetings with foreign leaders and photo-ops have produced no detail, no plan and no confidence for families and industry.

After the quick death of ‘Vote Leave’ following Michael Gove’s failed attempt to stab Boris Johnson, the victorious politicians are nowehere to question whilst we, the public, are demanding answers from a clueless bunch of  ‘elected’ Conservative puppets who have little to no understanding of the magnitude of what they’re doing, striding into negotiations, blindfolded and full of false confidence.

This is not the ‘steady’ leadership we were promised. Labour cannot join in.

Since the vote, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron risked further electoral ridicule and went against the Brexit tide, emerging as the voice of ‘the 48%’. The result? Massive electoral gains at the 2016 Witney by-election , eating into the constituency’s historic majority and jumping from 7% to 30% of the vote.

The truth is, around two-thirds of Labour members voted Remain, just ten Labour MPs supported the leave camp and a pro-European stance fits well with general party policy. By nature, Labour is internationalist. How can we support Brexit – especially as its main opponents just a few months ago?

This is not like us. This is not like the great political family to which I love and belong.

There are those that say anyone still advocating for Britain to remain in the EU is disrespecting the ‘will of the British people’. I understand this concern. But referendums are not binding and never have been. Throughout the campaign, the leaders of ‘vote leave’ were aware of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ – the idea that parliament has ultimate legal authority. Michael Gove in particular, emphasised the importance of parliamentary sovereignty as a reason to pull out of Europe. Yet suddenly, when it all becomes a bit awkward, the principle is disposable, a mere obstacle to an unforgiving Brexit agenda.

To ease the difficulty, Johnson, Gove, Fox and Davis all became temperory advocates of direct democracy and yet this is not how our system works. Had their desire to make Britain a more democratic country been a life-long crusade against corruption, political mismanagement and the general political establishment – why have they never in their combined seventy-four years in parliament, put forward a single motion in favour of direct democracy?

Political selfishness and self-preservation.

“This is not like the great political family to which I love and belong.”

It’s clear Britain’s relationship with the European Union will be the defining issue of the next two General Elections. Negotiations could take up to ten years and unlike the past two elections, the Conservatives can no longer anoint themselves as the ‘party of economic responsibility‘.

Fresh faced: A younger David Cameron during the leaders’ debates in 2010, in which he declared the Conservatives as the ‘party of economic responsibility’.

The decision our party takes now must be kept throughout the negotiations. This could be until 2026. Get the decision right and the electoral gains for our party could be significant. More importantly however, the benefit for our communities could be enormous. But get it wrong and our credibility as an outward-looking, compassionate, internationalist, Social Democratic force could be lost for good.

As article 50 is triggered and Britain enters its negotiating period, the apparent unity of the Conservative Party will unravel, causing deep rifts in Westminster. Like the whole referendum, it will be messy, undignified and foolish. Labour would benefit from distancing itself from this. After all, it did not create this mess. This is not who we are.

What is it they say? Ah yes – ‘reap what you sow’.

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