This article was originally published on The Commentator
The 2017 General Election saw the Labour Party pledge to “accept the Referendum result” and leave both the Single Market and Customs Union. In short, they promised to deliver Brexit.
Of course, running on a platform which proposed any other course of action — such as staying within the confines of European institutions — would have been an act of incredible self-harm, resulting in an electoral bloodbath. 7 out of 10 Labour MPs represent Leave-backing constituencies, and many of them would have been out of a job on June 9 if their Party had not been deemed to respect the will of the people.
The present-day to-ing and fro-ing on the issue is a complete disgrace and at odds with the Party’s Manifesto commitment, which ensured millions of votes for Labour at the General Election.
The murky water shrouding its Brexit position has been deliberately, and duplicitously, conjured up to conceal from Labour Leave voters that the Party is intent on moving towards support for a ‘soft’ departure from the EU, attempting to keep us in both the Single Market and the Customs Union.
However, rather than publicly coming out to announce this policy change — and face the consequences in the polls — Corbyn, McDonnell and co. continue to repeat the same half-hearted platitudes about Leaving the EU, before discreetly nodding to the baying pack of rabid Remoaners in the Party membership, and in Momentum.
So far this tactic has helped to bridge the irreconcilable gap between Labour voters in the working class heartlands, and the metropolitan liberals of large cities, but it will not last. Eventually the Labour Party’s fevered desire to stay within the European Union will come to the fore.
Not a single member of the Shadow Cabinet campaigned for Leave in the EU Referendum campaign, and the Labour backbenches are flooded with high profile MPs still campaigning to overturn the outcome — Chuka Umunna, David Lammy and Wes Streeting to name but a few.
Whilst the Conservative Party is heavily populated with life-long Eurosceptics, and has an ideological rear-guard of dedicated backbenchers to hold the Government’s feet to the fire, this is absent in the Opposition.
Indeed, although Jeremy Corbyn throughout his political career has been consistently critical of the European Union, these beliefs put him at odds with the rest of his Party. So, they have been conveniently abandoned. The Party as a whole does not want Brexit and support for it in Labour ranks is purely a product of electoral necessity.
The Party’s radical surge to the Left has resulted in a temporary surge in popularity as it hoovers up voters on the far-flung fringe of the political spectrum, whilst also managing to maintain a foothold in patriotic working class areas.
However, this approach will ultimately catch up with the Party. Traditional Labour voters will drift away from the Party as they realise Corbyn is more intent on pandering to the wishes of middle-class, Marx-loving, university students and speaking at rock concerts, than addressing issues of real concern to them, such as immigration and leaving the EU.
It should therefore have come as no surprise that the Conservative Party achieved wins in former Labour strongholds such as Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent South in the 2017 General Election. Last month revealed the gaping chasm currently in place between the national Labour Party and the Party at a local level.
Despite having strong control over the Parliamentary party, Momentum were unable to dictate to constituency parties in areas such as Morecombe, Southend or Carlisle, who they should select as their candidate.
They then suffered a string of stinging defeats. Leave voting towns such as these are being profoundly let down by the liberal, Remoaner snobbery which infests the management echelons of their party. Voters will not stand for it.
As soon as it sees a chance, the Parliamentary Labour Party will adopt a position which opts to keep Britain in the smothering grip of the EU’s economic and regulatory structures, prioritising economic continuity over political freedom and opportunity.
Its support will be for a ‘bare-minimum Brexit’, one that just about appeases the electorate’s desire for Brexit, but is, in reality, EU membership in all but name. This, they hope, will ease the internal battle within the Party by keeping both sides of the Brexit schism moderately content.
We can already witness such positioning take place.
Rather than herald the opportunities presented by Brexit, the likes of Sir Keir Starmer — the Shadow Brexit Secretary — continue to present it as a danger which needs to be circumvented.
Previously he has declared that staying in the Customs Union was “a viable end option”, and more recently he admitted Labour want to stay “very, very close” to the Single Market.
Whilst it would be easy to view such Europhilic language as Starmer positioning himself for a leadership bid in the distant future, such sentiments are also echoed by many of his senior Party colleagues. The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has declared his desire to remain within “a reformed Single Market” and the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, believes it “makes no sense” to leave the Single Market.
Corbyn is, perhaps, a little more subtle in his attempts to subvert the will of the people. Interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme in January, he explained that he wants to maintain the “closest possible” relationship with the EU and maintain regulatory alignment. This course of action is, of course, unacceptable and would relegate Britain to a country of mere rule-takers.
Mercifully, the Labour Party has not been tasked with delivering Brexit as it did not win a majority in the General Election. However, this is not preventing Labour from doing its utmost to sabotage the process.
For instance, the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill — a law vital to securing an orderly Brexit through the House of Commons — was put at risk when the Labour Party voted against it earlier this month.
The Bill, which had also been subjected to countless amendments from Labour MPs, only just cleared the Third Reading Stage by 324 votes to 295.
Additionally, refusal by the Party to support a ‘No Deal’ scenario under any circumstances, actively undermines the British Brexit negotiating position. It could very well force Prime Minister, Theresa May, with her weak minority Government, to accept whatever pitiful trade deal the European Commission sees fit to offer her even if it involves continued Freedom of Movement or political entanglement!
As if obstructing our departure from the EU isn’t enough, Labour seems hell-bent on damaging our future outside the EU.
For the UK, a trade deal with the US after Brexit is of paramount importance. As the US is our largest export market, with whom we ran a trade surplus of £34 billion in 2016, an arrangement which facilitates further trade between our two nations is an immensely exciting prospect. Therefore, President Donald Trump’s claim he wants a “big, beautiful trade deal” with the Britain is fantastic news, and was further reinforced after a positive meeting with Theresa May at January’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
However, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s never-ending campaign to condemn the President’s every action, is doing nothing to help Britain’s post-Brexit future. Instead, it clearly demonstrates that the Labour Party is perfectly happy to undermine British economic prospects wherever there are political points to be scored.
While the Great British Public voted to Get Britain Out of the European Union. It is evident that the Labour Party is neither willing, nor able, to deliver.
Robert Bates is a Research Executive at the cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out