Labour’s Brexit incoherence plays into May’s hands

December 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm (capitulation, Europe, Jim D, labour party)

Steve Bell 7.12.16Illustration: Steve Bell (the Guardian)

It should have been an open goal for Labour: the evasion and waffle emanating from May and her Brexit teame has become increasingly threadbare, failing to convince even her own side, or to obscure the obvious fact that the Government has no coherent plan whatsoever, beyond pandering to the racists and nationalists who drove the Leave campaign and bay from the Tory backbenches.

Labour’s Commons motion read: “That this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; believes that there should be a full and transparent debate on the Government’s plan for leaving the EU; and calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that this House is able properly to scrutinise that plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked.”

Excellent! Except that, in advance of the debate Labour let it be known that they accepted that the government should not have to disclose anything that might ‘undermine’ its negotiations with the EU, thus accepting the May/Brexiteers’ premise that the UK is dealing with enemies.

This fatal concession provided May with her escape route in the face of a backbench revolt, and the Government tabled the following amendment that Labour cravenly agreed to support:

“ … and believes that the process should be undertaken in such a way that respects the decision of the people of the UK when they voted to leave the EU on 23 June and does not undermine the negotiating position of the Government as negotiations are entered into which will take place after Article 50 has been triggered”.

This commits Labour to backing the Government’s exit plan (ie to serve Article 50 by the end of March 2017) and commits the Tories to virtually nothing, beyond a continuation of their meaningless waffle about “the best deal for Britain”, etc, etc. No wonder the Brexiteers and their nativist press chorus are crowing with glee.

The BBC’s Laura Kounssberg hits the nail on the head here:

“Accepting the amendment does not mean they have promised to do anything in particular.

“Number 10 sources say they have not committed to publishing anything specific – a Green Paper, a White Paper, or frankly, even Theresa May’s shopping list.

“They say she has always said she would update the Commons and the public, as and when it was possible, without damaging her negotiating strategy.

“They also have not given any promise on when they might publish whatever that is. And in theory, sources point to the fact that all the public comments the prime minister has made so far on Brexit have been “published”, as in , she uttered the words, and then they appeared in the newspapers, online or on the TV or radio”.

This blunder on the part of Labour does not just flow from tactical ineptitude: it’s the result of a profound political weakness on the part of the present Labour leadership as demonstrated by Corbyn’s low-key role during the referendum  and John McDonnell’s dreadful statement last month, promising not to obstruct Bexit.


  1. John Rogan said,

    Well, Owen Smith MP (described on here as a “nonentity”) got it right on this. He stated that Parliament should have a final say on the Brexit deal and, if need be, a new Referendum on it. Labour, despite all their differences on just about everything else, could have united on this simple point. No support for a Brexit which would make people worse off. Put the Tories on the spot to show that Brexit would be a good thing for UK.

    As for Article 50, Labour should have said no support for it until we know that it can be revoked, unilaterally, by the UK if there’s a bad Brexit deal. Tory rebels might even have helped them win that one.

    So now Labour have given the Tories a “blank cheque” on Brexit as Iain Duncan Smith so gloatingly said on the front of the Telegraph today. After all, the motion passed said that “there should be no disclosure of material” by the Govt which could affect the Govt’s negotiations with the EU. A big fat loophole to keep the substance of the Brexit Plan away from Parliamentary scrutiny.

    Anyway, it’s not only John McDonnell who sees “enormous opportunities” with Brexit.

    The Guardian states (Dec 7) –

    “Two former cabinet ministers, John Whittingdale and Michael Gove, suggested to the CBI business group on Wednesday that companies should start drawing up a list of regulations they want to see abolished or reformed.

    “John Longworth, the former chair of the British Chamber of Commerce, who campaigned to leave, told the committee that he thought the “opportunities for deregulation are legion”.

    “Some of it will be to do with employment rights. Some of it will be to do with the fact that people might not be allowed to do overtime that they wish to do,” he said, citing lorry drivers as an example.”

  2. John Rogan said,

    Andy Burnham goes into “Rivers of Blood” mode (Hansard Dec 7).

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    The remainers have lost and there is no turning back. The MEP’S will have to get a real job now. Makes you feel sad for the bloodsuckers.

  4. Political Tourist said,

    The Glasgow Bigot doesn’t even try to hide it now.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Hide what Nat si?

  5. Steven Admire said,

    What are the secrets that can’t be revealed in case it ‘undermines’ the government’s negotiation position? It’ll be simple: Mrs M goes to Bruxelles, asks for full access to the single market, no more free movement into the UK but please let UK citizens live in your countries. The EU says ‘You must be joking!’ They don’t budge, the UK leaves, the pound goes down, Nigel Farridge is happy but nobody else is.

    How can this be prevented? ‘Events, dear boy, events’: how about a few by-election defeats reducing their slim majority, backbench revolts, pubic disillusionment after the honeymoon period due to rising inflation, stagnation and unemployment, scandals, corruption, no confidence motions and an early general election, and the surprise rise of a centrist ‘get back in’ Liberal party that wins.

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