Brexit Chaos - Tories to Blame
In our NEC statement passed at the LRC’s February Conference, we declared, “The government has proved itself incapable of governing. They have produced a political and constitutional crisis.” Here it is, right in front of us.
In 2016 52% of voters elected to leave the European Union. Labour pledged to honour the result of the referendum. The TERMS on which Britain was to leave were NOT set out in the referendum result, which asked a simple In or Out question. The terms of leaving were to be settled in negotiations.
Many voters are frustrated at the interminable negotiations about the terms of Brexit going on. In 2016 the referendum debate was dominated on both sides by the Tories. Both sides lied systematically. People were given the impression that leaving the EU was the easiest thing in the world. In fact if a couple have been living together for 45 years one party can’t just slam the door behind them and leave, however tempting that may seem. Whether they want to or not, they will have to talk - about the kids, the house, the bills and dividing up the record collection among other things.
Theresa May decided that these negotiations, over an issue supposed to be the most important for Britain since the Second World War, would be run by herself as dictator. She has only been forced to allow a significant vote for Parliament in the end because of the chaos her deal has caused. This in turn has weakened her own position as Prime Minister, with revolts by Tory backbenchers and even Cabinet Ministers the order of the day.
May declared her ‘red lines’ at the outset of negotiations: out of the single market; out of the customs union; an end to free movement of people; no truck with the European Court of Justice. These terms, she said, is what people voted for in 2016. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a monstrous lie. Neither you nor I nor anyone else in the land had a box to tick or cross on our referendum ballot paper on the single market, the customs union or any of May’s other red lines.
May was starting as she intended to continue. She was not actually negotiating with the EU. She was negotiating, or rather capitulating, to the head bangers in her own Party. May has only ever been interested in what might maintain unity in the Tory Party, not what might be regarded as in the country’s interest. In this aim she has been spectacularly unsuccessful. The Tories are in a state of civil war.
Labour’s position was and is quite different. As John McDonnell said, “Nobody voted in 2016 to lose their job.” Labour’s 2017 election Manifesto insisted on “retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union.” It warned that, “Leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ is the worst possible deal for Britain and that it would do damage to our economy and trade.” If the country were to remain in a customs union and closely aligned to the rules of the single market, then there would be no tariffs between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the problem of the ‘backstop’ would disappear.
Labour’s Manifesto also emphasised the importance of maintaining, “Workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights and environmental protections.” Theresa May ignored all this. With her red lines laid down before negotiations had properly begun we were bound to end up with the sort of squalid, unsatisfactory deal she is trying to foist on the country. Labour has been completely consistent throughout the negotiations.
At present Parliament is deadlocked. May’s deal has twice been decisively rebuffed by huge majorities. She is determined to try to impose her rubbish deal upon parliament for a third and even a fourth time in a desperate effort to grind the opposition down. Bonehead!
There is a minority of MPs who are determined to remain in the EU despite the referendum result. There is a minority of mainly right wing Tories who want to leave without a deal and a minority who want a second referendum. There is no majority for any clear course of action.
May’s behaviour has been utterly tawdry. Unveiling her rotten deal after more than two years of unsatisfactory negotiations, she has run down the clock, demanding MPs vote for her deal with the chaos of no deal as the only alternative. This is blackmail. Tory MP Simon Clarke described the government’s latest proposal as “a gun to my head.”
The best way out of the current Parliamentary deadlock is to have a general election. That would enable Labour to campaign on all the issues that afflict the country – the housing crisis, the catastrophe of Universal Credit and all the other issues that have been marginalised by the Brexit debate. Understandably the Tories fear a general election. They are in tatters, at one another’s throats.
Because the political situation is out of control, nobody knows what will happen next. One thing is certain. The Tories caused this chaos. Only a Corbyn Labour government can bring it to an end.