Labour needs to talk about Brexit

by Robert Williams

There is an ongoing debate in the Labour Party about whether Sir Keir Starmer should talk about Brexit. There have been so many other sticks with which to beat the government with, on COCIV test and trace, the highest excess death rate in Europe, the neglect of care homes, the growing scandal of PPE procurement contracts that make Al Capone look like an honest businessman, the A level fiasco. I could go on, and simply list the failures of Boris Johnson and his government for another few thousand words, but readers might lose the will to live.

So why reopen the wound of Brexit, which certainly contributed to Labour’s worst electoral performance since 1935. Why should Labour risk the wrath of its former Red Wall voters? They may not have liked Jeremy Corbyn, and that played no small role in making Labour less popular than a bad case of diarrhoea, but the Brexit saga was also significant. (Sorry for the analogy, but Corbyn was utterly toxic to voters, including former Labour voters, and it feels appropriate for his effect on the body politic).

Voters were exhausted by the political drama and wanted it over. They seized, or at least a large enough proportion of voters in key target seats did, on the promise of an “oven ready deal” and gave the Tories their largest majority since 1987. So one can understand why Labour has been as quiet as a monk in a silent order on Brexit. Even at last week’s PMQs, Keir Starmer did not mention, even in a limited and specific way, the government’s proposals to break international law.

The Labour leadership thinks that talking about Brexit at the moment is a lose-lose situation for them. It will remind voters, particularly those in the “Red Wall” that Labour backed Remain (it didn’t, they promised to renegotiate Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote – and yes, it was a farcical policy). Labour also fears that raising Brexit again will take the focus off the government’s handling of our exit from the EU. The “don’t interrupt your opponent making mistakes” view. And finally, Labour thinking is that they cannot do anything about Brexit in any case now that the government has a majority of 80.

So silence, as the government damages its own reputation for competence and now reneges on its own election manifesto – the one Johnson made every one of his candidates pledge to support – is, possibly sound politics. Let the government destroy themselves and wait on the sidelines. It is appealing, but I think it is wrong

Sonia Sodha, chief leader writer at the Observer said this week, “Where’s Labour on Brexit? I have sympathy as I’m not sure anyone around the world has successfully cracked how to counter populism. It’s seriously hard. But not sure pragmatic silence is the way forward.”

Firstly, as a matter of principle (remember those?), Labour cannot continue to treat Brexit as a taboo subject because it’s scared of being called a ‘remainer party’. If Labour continues to say nothing about Brexit, the party will be complicit in the consequences of Brexit.

Already, the multiple impacts of Brexit, as opposed to the lies, deceits and fantasies that were promised, are becoming too obvious to ignore – from turning the Garden of England into a lorry park, to the full horrors of Operation Yellowhammer being Project Massive Understatement rather than Project Fear. We are already facing a poorer and more uncertain future. I haven’t even mentioned yet the removal of UK citizen’s rights to live and work in the EU – surely the greatest removal of rights British citizens have ever suffered. (And which Labour scarcely mentioned, to their eternal shame). You cannot simply ignore the cause of these detriments to our lives.

Also, purely electorally, the remain constituency has not diminished. Indeed, as we approach the end of the year, Brexit regret is growing. Polling taken at the end of July revealed 47% think that the UK was wrong to vote to Leave, compared to 41% who think it was right. Excluding the ‘don’t knows’ this is a gap of 53% to 47%.

Finally, Labour is making the mistake of thinking that we are still in the world of vaguely “normal” politics. We’re not. Even in a limited and specific way. The government is proposing to break international law. Johnson has form in this. He broke the law with the illegal proroguing of Parliament last year.

This is a government entirely made up of liars and charlatans. The sole qualification for being in Johnson’s cabinet is slavish loyalty to Johnson. That is why no one will, ever, resign from the government, no matter how incompetent or mendacious they are. They were never appointed for any competence or knowledge in the first place. If one goes the who house of cards will fall.

The country cannot “move on from Brexit”. It defines the future of the country, what is economically possible and what may soon split the Union. It’s not “government incompetence” either (although they are spectacularly incompetent at everything.

Johnson’s government was, without precedent in British history, elected on a le – “Get Brexit done”, an “oven ready deal”, built on delusions and fantasies. Gaslighting and further lies are the only options it has available.  But it’s a deliberate strategy.

The ultras will never be satisfied. What they want is to tear up our entire relationship with the EU, politically, economically and culturally. So far, the fanatics have had their way, but they are still not satisfied. Charles Tannock, a former Conservative MP explained their end game with a tweet in the quiet days of 2018:

“My chat with a leading Brexiter suggests their ambition is to destroy all multilateral world bodies from EU via WTO to ILO and eventually UN and NATO and reverse the international rules based order so carefully constructed post WW2 as part of progress and better governance”

Labour shouldn’t just talk about Brexit because the government are malevolent liars. It needs to talk about Brexit because our peace, prosperity and future of democracy depend on them doing so.

Robert Williams works in communications

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19 Responses to “Labour needs to talk about Brexit”

  1. Tafia says:

    The deal is oven ready. The problem is the EU refuse to accept it and are attempting to force the UK to allow itself to be partitioned to the EU’s advantage.

    We have even given the EU the right to choose – the Deal we have tabled, or No Deal. And even when faced with two extraordinarily simple choices, they can’t even function well enough to do that.

    It is blatantly obvious that Johnson’s election win and the size of it shocked them and completely destroyed their chosen tactic of battering UK into accepting BRINO. And it’s also blatantly obvious that up until a few weeks ago, they were still deluding themselves that we could be pushed into asking for an extension.

    The reality is the government has remained rock-steady in this. It is ‘solid’ that we will leave the Withdrawal Period at the end of the year, deal or no deal, and it has remained rock solid that they are only interested in the deal they have offered.

    And the Government is not proposing to break international law – that is complete drivel that even a halfwit understands. The Government has asked Parliament to debate and pass a Bill that will give government the ability to change two lines in the Withdrawal Agreement, regarding Northern Ireland – which, whether you like it or not is sovereign UK territory that neither the EU nor any other outsider has any right meddling in. It is Parliament that will decide the final Bill and Parliament that will pass it into law. And Parliament – according to Section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, is sovereign on all matters relating to the UK and that, whether whinging whining garbage remainers like it or not, is the law of this Realm.

    It is interesting to note that since the Second Reading passed, the EU is now backing down with regards fishewries and has backed down with regards the City.

  2. Tafia says:

    Latest Polling from around the regions.

    (General Election 12 Dec

    SCOTLAND GE 2019
    SNP 45%, Con 25.1%, Lab 18.6%, LDem 9.5%, Oth 1.8%

    WALES GE2019
    Lab 40.9%, Con 36.1%, PC 9.9%, LDem 6.0% Oth 7.1%

    LONDON GE2019
    Lab 48.1%, Con 32%, LDem 14.9%, Grn 3.1%, Oth 1.9%

    YouGov, 28 Aug – 04 Sep, Wales Only
    Lab: 41%, Con: 33%, Plaid: 15%, LDem: 2%, Grn: 3%, Oth: 6%
    Senedd, Const/List**
    Lab: 34/33%, Con: 29/27%, Plaid: 24/23%, LDem: 3/3%, BXP: 4/4%, Oth: 3/6%
    (**16/17 year olds can now vote in Senedd elections and the sample is adjusted to contain a representative sample of those ages for the Senedd figures)

    Survation, 02-07 Sep, Scotland Only
    Yes: 53%, No: 47%
    SNP: 51%, SCon: 20%, SLab: 21%, SLDem: 6%, Oth: 3%
    Holyrood Const/List
    SNP: 53/42%, SCon: 20/18%, SLab: 18/18%, SLDem: 7/8%, SGrn: 1/10%, Oth:1/4%
    (**16/17 year olds can now vote in Holyrood elections and the sample is adjusted to contain a representative sample of those ages for the Holyrood figures)

    Redfield & Wilton, 07-08 Sep, London Only
    Lab: 50%
    Con: 29%
    LDem: 12%
    Grn: 6%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 2%

  3. Tafia says:

    UK Opinion Polls so far this month.
    General Election 12 Dec:
    Con 43.6%, Lab 32.2%, LDem 11.6%, Grn 2.7%, Oth 9.9%

    Redfield & Wilton, 01-02 Sep
    Con: 43%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 8%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 7%

    Survation, 02-04 Sep
    Con: 40%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 8%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 11%

    NCPolitics, 04-08 Sep
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 5%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 9%

    Opinium, 09-11 Sep
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 39%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 9%

  4. John P Reid says:

    can I recommend these books, also paul embery has a book out November and Matt Goodwin has one on the 2019 election june next year Small guys wrong side of history by ed west
    Nick timothy remaking one nation goodwins books National popularism ,why Britain voted to leave the european union
    Beyond the red wall Deborah Mattison
    Left case for Brexit
    Christophe guilloy twilight of the elites –
    Christopher lasch the cultrure of narcasism
    martin Earley key to all mythologies
    Road to Wigan pier- geroge Orwell
    Ragged trousered philanthropist

    The likes of us Michael Collins

  5. John P Reid says:

    A Political statement Of labour losing is The money the party owed top unions of private investors when we fell from power 10 years ago

    But after the moaning of pervious prime ministers,what is true is John Major can never again feel hard done by when lady thatcher opposed him in the lords over the Maastricht treaty

  6. Vern says:

    Never mind talking about Brexit. You have not been listening, and you are still not listening. Get out of your comfy existence and have a genuine conversation with people that have voted for something that is different and then come back and tell us what you have learned.

    17.4 million people cannot “all be wrong”

    Here’s a thought for you that has been raised on here before – If Corbyn, who was as Anti-EU as Nigel Farage had recommended Leave (his desired objective) and Labour were in power now – would we be having this conversation?

    You are right about one thing – sitting on the fence and obfuscating doesn’t work. Trouble is, this Labour party is weaker in virtually every post to the Tories…

  7. A.J. says:

    This is puerile stuff – and it needn’t be. Any reading of history, though, would cast doubt on whether Britain was ever going to be comfortable within what became the EU – and it became like a shoe that not only pinched but gave quite serious pain. Some came to see ‘Europe’ and the EU as synonymous: like a Belgian barman I had a conversation with back in 1998 or a Spaniard possibly a year or so later: rejection of the EU was rejection of them, their countries. Of course, they were all for the single currency.
    Of course Boris Johnson is useless, though. Of course he is. Those around him are mediocre, nothing more and nothing less; David Starkey is wrong to compare him with Disraeli or even Baldwin. The so-called ‘Conservative Party’ hasn’t had a decent leader since Margaret Thatcher – and heaven knows who it was before that: probably Churchill.
    I never agreed with having a referendum in the first place. Membership should have been left to MPs. They should have been given time in each Parliament to debate the issue. But here we are.
    Starmer, though, should be able to say anything he likes on any subject. That’s his job. And if he frightens the horses, well, then he frightens the horses.

  8. A.J. says:

    Could someone please explain to me exactly what ‘international law’ is supposed to be? Is it anything like the League Of Nations? Someone should have told Hitler.

  9. A.J. says:

    Liars and charlatans? Johnson and Cummings clearly learned some new tricks from Blair and Campbell. Silly thing to say.

    Most people I know well who are pro-EU have little understanding or knowledge of European culture. Their impulses are almost exclusively American or British, via the films and TV they spend most of their leisure time watching.
    For what it’s worth, I didn’t like the way ‘Leave’ conducted its campaign – all that balls about the NHS. ‘Remain’, though, were a disgrace – and continued to be. As for those who now regret the result of the referendum, well, they ought to have thought about it all a bit harder before putting their cross in the box.
    France was always going to be the problem. France has always been the problem. We offered the hand of friendship during the glorious Edwardian summer and much good it did us: their rotten Third Republic went rolling on.
    British governments of whatever complexion should act in the national interest – the French never do anything else – never have and never will. As for the Germans, sooner or later they’ll get sick and tired of being the cash-cow and make their peace with the USA and China. Britannia will probably end up sinking further beneath the waves – which, if what Corelli Barnett said is anything to go by, we’ve been doing since Dickens’ time.

  10. Anne says:

    Robert this is one of the truest articles I have read on Brexit. It really is a sad situation for our country to be in. What do we do. Well, I am afraid we just have got to get on with it even though we are very much poorer for it. I would have hoped that we could get a trade deal with Europe by the end of the year, and try and build our broken relationship with Europe but this is looking less and less likely. It is also a sad situation that these “Little Englanders” want to inflict further damage by going further. It is truly breathtakingly dangerous to our economy and standing in the world.
    As I have said previously Brexit has changed the landscape in Scotland and recent events will also impact on Northern Ireland – remember they voted also to remain, and there is no evidence this position has changed. It really is a loose, loose position all around. I agree with your description of incompetent government – Johnson does not seem to understand what is happening and “Dom” wants to dismantle everything in sight – what is that saying ‘if it’s not broken don’t mend it.’
    Kier and his team are doing well – looking and sounding like the compete team. Nicola Sturgeon is also a competent operator – she will probably go for an independence referendum next year. Labour does need to have a plan for this which will have to include something on our future relationship with Europe. There are also more complex problems with Northern Ireland which also involves a position on Europe.

  11. A.J. says:

    A pity the EU leaders couldn’t have behaved like adults instead of petulant children. Tusk springs instantly to mind. They simply couldn’t believe we no longer wanted to belong to their club.

    Anne, how will you feel when Labour lose the next election? Which they will.

  12. wg says:

    I don’t know if I should be on here trying to correct so many misconceptions, but here goes.

    Jeremy Corbyn may have been toxic and had views that wouldn’t appeal to the average working class, patriotic voter, but he reflected the views of many working class people and he has spent his political life opposing the EU.
    How many votes were lost to the Labour Party when Corbyn turned away from his instinctive anti-EU principles?

    There is also an assumption on the author’s part that the plebs out on the street didn’t know what they were voting for. We knew that Johnson’s waffle was meaningless; but we knew that electing him would result in taking the first step towards removing ourselves from a political EU – half a loaf was better than no loaf at all.
    The thinking is that, no matter the turmoil happening now, whatever deal is arrived at, at least we would be free of the EU’s Potemkin parliament.

    Here in a nutshell is the problem for Mr Williams:

    Sonia Sodha: “…I have sympathy as I’m not sure anyone around the world has successfully cracked how to counter populism…”

    When I began my working life there was a group of people stood in front of me fighting for my wages and pension: they also fought to stop the exploitation of labour.
    If those people were brought forward to the present day, they would be labelled as ‘populists’, ‘nativists’ – ‘Gammon’.
    The author wishes to counter populism; which really means that he wishes to counter democracy.

    Finally, it’s not that we are against organisations like the UN and WTO etc. – it’s just that they are now imposing their view of democracy onto nations and people.
    If there are such things as ‘populists’, it is those people who oppose the excesses of globalism: a globalism that reduces distinct and colourful nations to an homogenous mass, and is creating a dog-eat-dog race to the bottom.

    People are fighting for their identities and cultures: I get the feeling that Robert Williams wouldn’t understand that.

  13. A.J. says:

    What is all this rubbish about ‘Little Englanders’? The anti-EU position is clearly the opposite of that mentality – and doubtless means yet more taking the knee to China. Can we now have it any other way? The way I see it, Covid will do China no harm; none whatever. I began to think the world was turning upside down about seventeen or eighteen years ago upon reading the obituary of some wealthy Chinese communist who had been making donations to the so-called ‘Conservative Party’. I can’t remember who the leader was at the time: possibly Room-Sharer.
    I also remember a Lords debate a few years ago during which Lawson alluded very clearly to yet more dubious dealings with the Chinese. Only Charles Moore in the ‘DT’ seems to have a well-focussed view of what this is all going to lead to.

  14. John P Reid says:

    We the Deborah mattisin book, sIs labour lost the wall for 4 reason
    10 % the continual fall in working class votes even those who lost their jobs under thatcher due to labour becominga middle class party,and the right to buy at least was popular
    10% the culture war of labour holding the working class in contempt
    10% Corbyn
    70% Brexit

  15. ROB says:

    Tafia, I think I trust lawyers over a quarter wit spouting I’ll informed drivel. The government itself has said it’s going to break international law. You are equally delusional when it comes to just how much of a calamity brexit is, let alone the insanity of no deal.

    You have nothing reality or fact based to offer. Just more fantasies and unicorns. Have you learned nothing from the last four years?

    And AJ, fighting to make working people poorer and with fewer rights and opportunities is not helping working people.

  16. Vern says:

    At ROB – please tell us all what reality and fact based wisdom and greatness you can share.
    Let me remind you of 1 very simple fact;
    the Remain camp was unable to quote a single reason why we should Remain…….It had plenty of reasons why we should not leave but tellingly, none to Remain.
    On this basis Leave represents Hope of Change and of a different future, Remain equals the status quo, stay aw we are. Hope trumps status quo every time. And that is why we are leaving,with or without unicorns.
    You now get to watch it from the sidelines – you should have spent more time listening to people instead of ignoring genuine concerns. After 4 years, you have still learnt nowt.

  17. Rob Cooke says:

    Oh dear. Another one who wants to fight yesterdays battles.

    The emotional and financial attachment that other countirs have to the EU be it Ireland or Germany never really existed in UK.

    Ypu just dont get that this is a cultural issue. All the economic arguments – bullshit maonly- were had and weren’t persuasive.

    FoM was an utter disaster post accession.

    The Tories incompetent and corrupt have several big sticks to beat Labour with
    Name one prominent Labour Leaver in frontline politics?
    That says it all.

    I despise Cummings but he really is right when he tells Westninster Bubble peolle to get out into the rest of the country.

    Labour need to move on from Identiy Politics and embrace English Partiotism. The Toeies will bin Johnsom if he doesnt cut the mustard and elect someone else and Labour will ay catch up again

  18. Tafia says:

    ROB – the government has not said it is going to break international law at all. It has said it will if it needs to, if Parliament agrees.

    If you can’t differentiate the very very significant difference between the two positions then you really really are low grade genetic material.

  19. Tafia says:

    And ROB, always remember, in every Court case, 50% of the lawyers are wrong.

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