Friday, 8 November 2019

Labouring the point

Though the media couldn't be less interested in Brexit having found its comfort zone in reporting the general election, Brexit is still the central issue and the stakes couldn't be higher. By an accident of numbers this election could see Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten.

It seems Labour have settled on a renegotiation policy to then go forward to a second referendum. Here we have to revisit a few basic points. The EU is not going to substantially renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. If there is movement on level playing field provisions including labour rights then there's a chance the deal can be reverted to its status pre-Johnson but if Corbyn wants added extras such as a customs union then he's got the political declaration to play with and nothing else.

In effect he'll be going to a public vote with something not entirely dissimilar to Mrs May's deal that he and his party blocked when they had the chance. But then there's the mechanics of the referendum. For right or wrong, leavers wouldn't support a deal negotiated by Corbyn. The designated campaign, therefore, would be a proposition imposed on leavers. They will call it a remain versus remain referendum.

But that's not the only problem. This is a real question of legitimacy. We were told that the 2016 referendum would be a once in a generation vote. Our chance to decide. We leavers had long anticipated a referendum and some of us had been planning on it. This has now chewed up the better part of five years of my life, to the point where I really cannot afford the time or energy to keep up the pace. Nor can I afford the cost to my career development. I need to make a living and I can't spare more time to fully participate.

I'm not alone in this. Those of us who worked to make it happen gave everything we could and more but we'll have to sit this next one out. So it'll be their referendum, not ours. 2016 will be the stolen referendum. The London wing of the Labour party hated the result so pressured Labour's coward in chief to overturn it. So they'll have their "people's vote" which will largely be a contest between two warring Westminster tribes where the people don't get a look in.

One suspects the immediate issue with any "kangarendum", held largely to appease the few (with no real public appetite for a second vote) will be turnout. For the remain position to have any legitimacy whatsoever then it's going to have to beat the 17.4 million mark. Which it won't. We will be back here again.

The second problem is that Labour cannot possibly campaign against their own deal. They have to argue that it's a good deal. There is no chance of a coherent campaign from Labour. And then just supposing they managed to lose a second referendum, they would still have to get the deal past parliament - bringing us roughly to where we are now. Does Labour want to be the party that revokes after two referendums? If not then it's no deal.

Any which way you look at it, Labour does not have a solution to this current stalemate. Like everything else they do, it's driven by electoral triangulation and trying to ride two horses at once. Labour is simply not a credible option.

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