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Labour must fight May’s dismal transition with gusto

by Hugo Dixon | 22.03.2018

Keir Starmer has welcomed Theresa May’s transition deal, albeit with caveats. Jeremy Corbyn is missing in action when it comes to Brexit. This isn’t good enough. Labour needs to fight this dismal Tory Brexit fiercely. Otherwise, it will deserve a big share of the blame for damaging public services (including the NHS), working people’s jobs and possibly even peace in Northern Ireland.

It’s understandable that Starmer said some good things about the transitional deal. After all, the shadow Brexit secretary argued for such a stopgap arrangement to prevent the economy falling off a cliff before the prime minister cottoned onto the idea.

But May’s version of a transition is a distorted version of the one Labour advocated – so it has every reason to slam it. In particular, the prime minister has signed up for a transition which won’t be long enough to do the trick. As a result, she has just shifted the cliff edge to the end 2020. Labour’s position used to be that we need a transition that is as “short as possible but as long as necessary”. Why isn’t Corbyn repeating that now?

Even worse, the prime minister has signed up to a transition without a clear idea of where she is heading. As such it is not a bridge to a bright future but a “gangplank into thin air”, as George Bridges, the former junior Brexit minister, memorably said. As more facts emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear we are going to end up with a lousy Brexit that is bad for our prosperity – and bad for our power and pride too because it is going to turn us into rule-takers.

Labour should be making this point. To be fair, after welcoming the transitional deal, Starmer did say that the “government must now prioritise negotiating a final agreement that protects jobs, the economy and guarantees there will be no hard border in Northern Ireland.” But this is hardly a full-throated attack on the Tories’ Brexit. It is more like a qualified pat on the back.

It’s not too late for Corbyn, Starmer and the rest of the Labour leadership to go on the attack. Indeed, Owen Smith, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has just published an excellent column in the Guardian which, among other things, calls for a people’s vote on the miserable Brexit deal the prime minister is likely to negotiate. Today and throughout the weekend, Labour leaders will have many chances to discuss what the prime minister has agreed at the summit. They must not pull their punches. Otherwise, May will end up with a green light to damage our country.

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This piece was updated on March 23 to add the reference to Owen Smith’s column

Edited by Rachel Franklin

2 Responses to “Labour must fight May’s dismal transition with gusto”

  • The Brexit Lunacy

    Who but a lunatic would pick a fight with 27 others ?

    Who would claim to save money when the exit fees are astronomic ?

    Who would call themselves Conservative while demolishing their country ?

    Who would be blind to the obstacles to Brexit but not consult an optician ?

    Who would rubbish expert advice and overlook the Sterling devaluation ?

    Who would fail to take into account of two World Wars in Europe ?

    Who but a lunatic what not remember “Better Together” in the Scottish referendum ?

    Who but a lunatic would fail to observe that manufacturing industry is integrated across Europe?

    Who but a lunatic would not realize that taking European citizenship from 17 million people is a criminal act (folly) and should be resisted by all means ?

    Who but a lunatic would not notice the irrational politics in the USA ?

    Who but a lunatic would try to resist Putin alone rather than as part of
    the EU ?

    Who but a lunatic would want to live in a country ruled by right wing Conservatives ?

    Who but a lunatic would propose total control of UK borders but have an open border in Ireland ?

    One way forward might be to have two classes of British citizen, those in and those out of the EU. The new younger generation will make the case for remaining in the EU. Those remaining would pay an agreed subscription and be able to live, work and travel freely in the 28 countries of the EU.

    © David Watmough file: Lunatics 160318

  • Mr Corbyn is not “missing in action.” He is now openly fighting for the enemy, with the sacking of Owen Jones. He has capitulated to a Tory Brexit, as he sees it is in his interests and comports with his ideology to do so.

    While I must admit I did have some respect for the man, I now realise he has no real leadership skills. I’ve yet to see him “lead” on anything. He is only doing moderately well because there is a leadership vacuum and there are no ideas. It isn’t going to get better and there is now insufficient time, even for a Macron-like character. Re-nationalisation of the ‘Royal’ Mail isn’t going to solve any problems.

    I don’t see Europe’s political, if not financial largesse and associated pleasantries toward us continuing indefinitely. After all our Brexit activities are an existential assault on the Union. Those who have chosen Brexit do not support the very idea of the EU, so I suspect relations are bound to worsen over time as the minor squabbles and skirmishes become intractable. Then there is Ireland. Even the Scots have capitulated to the “will of the English.”

    The only hope we have is that the Court may be persuaded to call out the constitutional errors made on the way to Brexit. Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope. Our relatively unknown and cobbled together Supreme Court doesn’t really have standing to call out another branch of government in the way that the US Supreme Court can.

    Mr Corbyn has however helped me to make my mind up on where I’ll be spending the latter part of my life. So, thanks for that, anyway.