Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Laboured Progress

Scottish Labour’s Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: “The shambolic handling of the Brexit negotiations so far is more about the chaos at the heart of the Tory party than securing an agreement that works for the people of the UK.

“If Theresa May cannot get her proposals through the commons she must call an election. Labour would deliver a jobs-first Brexit which means a customs union with the EU and tariff free access to the single market.”
Alistair Grant, Political Correspondent: The Herald, 10 September 2018, Scotland’s police and prosecutors ‘unable to prepare for Brexit’

This sums up the chaos in British Politics (No wonder so many in Scotland want out)

The mess that the Government is making of Brexit is as much due to the internal fighting over the very nature of what being a conservative means as it is to the incompetence of ministers in attempting to draw anything coherent from the promises made during the EU Referendum Campaign in 2016.

A clique in the Conservative Party (probably no more than 50 strong in the Commons) are trying to claim that the Will of The People, as expressed in the referendum, is for a radical reshaping of the country as an ultra conservative nation (think USA but more right-wing). To anyone else this is clearly preposterous – both the manifesto and the claimed mandate – but no one is pressing any alternative with any conviction.

The Prime Minister is attempting to square the circle with the Chequers Plan – which is betrayal in the eyes of the ultras, a step too far for the Conservative moderates (when they find their spine), and unacceptable to the European Union. The EU has to be very careful not to offer a model that would encourage other member countries an “Association Model” which allows cherry-picking of benefits without payment of any costs. That is a bit like a rugby club allowing free drinks at the bar, individual choice of playing rules (league or union, as codified in the 1960s, the 1980s, 2000s etc.) – and no subscriptions; it would not work and would not last.

Labour, on occasions, (when not distracted by noises off) promote a “jobs-first Brexit”. This looks a bit like the EEA membership that Norway has. For some reason Labour do not explicitly promote “the Norway model”, possibly because Brexiteers condemn it as “pay and no say”, “a rule taker but not a rule maker”. However this is to a degree true of any trade relationship with the EU – if you want to export into the EU, your products or services must meet EU standards and these are set by the EU. For a proper “say” in setting these standards and rules you have to be a member.

So there is an improvement on the Norway Model that gives you a “say”; it is called Membership of the European Union. Dare anyone call this Norway Plus Plus?

Labour (and the Brexit ultras – what company Labour keeps!) claim that this would be “No Brexit” (agreed) and would not respect the “Will of The People”. The latter is a mantra chanted by too many people.

Leaving aside any questions as to whether the people were deceived (by lies, social media manipulation or dirty money), the idea that the “Will of the People” cannot change is ludicrous. If that were so we would not need any further General Elections. The mutability of the “Will of The People” is one of the reasons that many referenda require a “super majority” – or are even made “advisory”.

If Labour genuinely wants a general election, it needs to offer the people a genuine choice. Polls indicate that “the people” are fed up with the shambles and yet there is no clear majority for any flavour of Brexit. Yet with a clearer view of the problems and consequences of Brexit, there may be a majority for Norway Plus Plus (No Brexit).

The Liberal Democrats seem to be offering this with “Exit from Brexit”. In Labour/Liberal marginals this may win them votes at the expense of Labour – but it is unlikely to lead to a Liberal Government (or to let Labour in through the back door).

If Labour was to openly promote No Brexit they could offer an effective home to the 48% who voted remain (plus any Leavers who have had second thoughts or realise they were duped). With First Past the Post, governments can be elected with less than 40% of the vote. A pro EU line would also probably keep the moderates in the Labour party – adding credibility in the eyes of the wider public.

Someone has to say of Brexit, “The Emperor has no clothes” and to marshal a coalition of the sensible to oppose it and promote a new view of a reformed EU. To command a majority that coalition has to include Labour.

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