By Arun Srivastava
With British Prime Minister Theresa May unable to handle effectively the Brexit issue and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn emerging as the most favoured candidate for the top job, a section of the Labour leaders opposed to Corbyn’s entry into the office of the prime minister have launched a sinister campaign against him.
They have been creating the impression that the core support group of the party and its voters have been opposed to the party’s current stance on Brexit. They are, in fact, in league with the Tories to stop the ascendance of Corbyn. They also supported a survey, which interestingly found 32 percent of Labour “remain” voters believe Labour is “completely against Brexit” and a further 31 percent of Labour “leave” voters believe Labour is “completely in favour of Brexit”.
No doubt major differences had surfaced inside Labour in 2016 when the referendum was held to assess the mood of Britons on the Brexit. But even at that stage no one challenged Corbyn on this particular issue while he did not come out with a clear stand. He had looked at it from the capitalist maneuverings perspective.
Curiously, during 2017 or even during the election, which of course Theresa May lost, no Labour leader raised the issue of Labour losing support or the possible alienation of cadres.
According to Mark Malloch Brown, a crossbench peer and chair of Best for Britain, “This data shows, clearly, that many more remainers are likely to abandon Labour over its Brexit line than leavers. Labour did so well in the election off the back of pro-European voters tactically voting for them. All that could be at risk if this policy, a calculated policy of ambiguity, continues.” He is a bundle of confusion. While he appreciates the voters’ response, he expresses apprehensions. He did not spell out the reasons for his trepidation.
In the backdrop of this bogey, at least seventy Labour councilors from south London have called on Jeremy Corbyn to be open to giving voters another say on Brexit. In an open letter, the councilors from Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth wrote: “The contradictions inherent in the Brexit project itself should concern the Labour party far more than has been the case up to now. Labour should be open on the mechanism by which voters have their say but the party must be clear that the electorate’s role in this process did not end on 23 June 2016”.
Yes, political actions and lines always need corrections. The developments of past one year make it abundantly clear that Britons have begun the process of giving second thought to their Brexit stand. A demand has also been made to rescind the verdict. In fact, from the very beginning the party’s official position has been that Britain should stay in the single market during transition out of the EU, but it has left most of the issues about the terms of UK’s future trading relationship with the EU “on the table” for negotiation.
Little doubt Labour should provide the opportunity to the people to change their mind. This would be perceived as an act of maturity and principled leadership the country so desperately needs. Labour needs to move from ambiguity in 2017 over Brexit to clarity in 2018. One thing Labour must do: come out with a clear political and ideological line. There is no denying that in the present situation the party is also in a state of confusion. If Labour does not act fast it will inflict damage to its political credibility. The Labour leadership cannot deny that on issues of contemporary politics, different sections of people are receiving different messages from the leadership. If people come to believe that there has been a deliberate ambiguity in the approach of the leadership, that would prove to be counterproductive.
Since the Brexit issue has come to be directly related to the sovereignty of the country, the Labour leadership must come clear. It is significant in the poll, 63 percent of self-identified Labour supporters say they would be “delighted or pleased” if Labour said it would stop Brexit and stay in the European Union. By contrast, only 22 percent supporters said they would be delighted or pleased if Labour said it would proceed with Brexit and ensure the UK leaves the EU.
March 2019 is the d-date by which the complex issues involving Britain’s divorce from the EU need to be resolved. In fact, the issue has to be finalized at least six months ahead of this cut off line. It will take at least six months for the European parliament and the EU’s 28 members to ratify any agreement. It is really sad that the Conservatives themselves are split on what they want. While one faction is pressing for a “hard Brexit” that abandons the single market, the advocates of “soft Brexit” faction would accept EU regulations and the Court of Justice, because they are afraid that bailing out of the single market will damage the British economy.
It is a known secret that talks between Britain and the EU are not making any significant progress. The primary reason is that the EU is not sure May can deliver or the present government will continue to rule Britain till next general elections in 2022. With Labour on the ascendency, EU members are in no rush to settle things. It appears that Corbyn is correct in his estimate that it is not Britain’s exit from EU but anger at the growing inequality, increasing job insecurity, a housing crisis, and EU strictures that have turned economic strategy over to unelected bureaucrats and banks.
It is the inability of May to effectively face the crisis that has turned British insecure. For them, at this stage, preserving and protecting the interest of Britain is upper most in their minds than anything else. Basically, this has been the reason that some people have approached Corbyn to come forward and protect the country through counseling Labour supporters and cadres. In fact, this underlines the faith the people have in Corbyn. The people of Britain desperately need a strong and united team to negotiate a Brexit that serves their interests. The Tories cannot provide it. Labour can, but it will have to distinguish between access to the EU single market and submission to that market’s pro-big business rules and institutions.
The UK wants to talk about future trade relations and a plan for a two year “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations. But the EU says they will not talk about the future until enough progress has been made on the other issues.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer had announced in August that his Labour party wanted to keep the UK in the single market and a customs union during a transition that could last for up to four years. Labour would also accept free movement of people, payments into the EU budget and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition. The single market is seen as the EU’s biggest achievement. Britain was a member of a free trade area in Europe before it joined what was then known as the common market. The European Union single market, which was completed in 1992, allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the European Union, as if it was a single country.
Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU say it got a big boost from membership. They hold that Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that the country is more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.
If Labour is ever to return to power, it must capture another 64 seats in Parliament; that requires a 3.6 per cent swing away from the Conservatives. Preaching to middle-class liberals will not be enough, since almost all those 64 most winnable constituencies contain a high concentration of Brexit-supporting voters. Corbyn has to strive hard and dispel any misconception amongst the voters, especially the youth, his new support base, about his role as well as party’s position on Brexit. (IPA Service)
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