Kate Hoey MP: Labour Conference must not seek to overturn the EU referendum outcome
Labour Leave Co-Chair Kate Hoey MP believes this will be the last Labour conference before the UK leaves the EU. She warns against plans by some 'to use the Labour Party to subvert the will of the people'.
As Labour members, delegates and supporters gather in Liverpool for the Labour Party's Annual Conference it should be an opportunity for Labour to demonstrate to the country that we have the energy, policies and drive to govern and deliver for the UK.
One of the biggest opportunities facing the next Labour government will be our leaving the European Union. Labour has accepted the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum and Jeremy Corbyn was the first major political leader in the UK to call for Article 50 to be invoked. With just 6 months until we leave, this Conference will be the last as a member of the European Union. Labour should use this national platform as an opportunity to show the nation what we should and will achieve in government outside the European Union. The overwhelming majority of Labour MP’s supported Article 50 being invoked, so Labour is now a Brexit party. The government is weak and Labour must demonstrate it is ready for government and not obsessed with the past.
That future and unity is under threat by considerable attempts and efforts by the Second Referendum campaign, called the People's Vote, to use the Labour Party to subvert the will of the people. Their well funded, well organised and media supported campaign is going to attempt to use the Labour Conference to try and overturn the EU referendum outcome which Labour has accepted. We should not let this happen.
Of Labour’s 2017 vote, five million Labour voters supported Leave and seventy percent of Labour constituencies voted Leave. If Labour is to maintain their support and hold the constituencies in the Midlands, the North and Wales that voted leave then the leadership must hold firm against these second referendum campaigners.
In 2017 the British people had the opportunity to vote for a second referendum party, the Liberal Democrats, and they were trounced in that election. Labour’s Brexit manifesto received enormous support and deprived the Tories of a majority. If Labour is to win the next general election then it needs to win over leave voters, not more remain voters in the cities and university towns.
Instead of trying to ignite the arguments of the referendum and open up old divisions, Labour has a patriotic duty to unify and bring the nation together. That has always been the duty and responsibility of our movement and we have never failed. A second referendum will open up those wounds of the past, it will divide parties and households. It will divide north against south, young against old, towns against cities. Most of all it will send a message to those millions of Leave voters that their vote did not count and add to the increasing belief that politicians cannot be trusted. If we are for the many, let us do what the many want us to: hold the government to account in their efforts to achieve a good deal.
Brexit is taking up an enormous amount of political capital and media coverage. The British public is interested and concerned, but now we also need to be focusing on life after we leave the European Union. For the first time in many years, immigration policy will be the sole responsibility of the front bench. Labour should use Brexit as an opportunity to remove the exclusive policy of free movement for privileged wealthy Europe, and have a truly fair and open immigration system where workers from all over the world have the same rights to access the UK regardless of their country of origin. Let us debate policies over which we will once again have control: immigration, agriculture, fisheries, regional policy, industrial policy and others. Labour is famed for its passion and debate so let us debate these issues and the future of our country.
Many in the Labour movement supported remain and many supported leave. The hallmark of a democratic party and a democratic nation is the acceptance of the outcome of a free and fair vote. Our EU referendum was free and it was fair and leave won. As democrats, we in the Labour party whichever side we were on, need to stand for democracy and move on. Together we can build a democratic, socially just, internationalist and fair United Kingdom outside the European Union. Let’s get on with it.
Kate Hoey is the Labour MP for Vauxhall and Co-Chair of Labour Leave