A confirmatory Brexit vote can end this nightmare - but we can't campaign as Project Fear
Brexit was a kick against the establishment for many, says Labour's Clive Lewis. But he argues that the left cannot win by re-running the 2016 Remain campaign.
It’s been three years since we turned on the news to find out that Britain voted to leave the EU. Nigel Farage declared 'Independence Day' and the far right was triumphant, while millions of working people woke up worried about their future.
Brexit was the product of a broken political system. For many, the vote to Leave was a kick against an establishment which has let them down and attacked their living standards.
But the longer this mess goes on, the clearer it becomes that the Brexit many voted for will not be delivered. We’ve gone from Liam Fox promising the easiest deal “in human history” to looking for ways to avoid running out of medicines. Instead of giving the NHS £350 million a week, we might soon be selling chunks of it to American companies. EU nationals in the UK and Brits in Europe have spent years in limbo, without having their rights guaranteed. Factories are closing, jobs are leaving and hate crime, unleashed by the Leave campaign, has continued to rise.
But three years since the referendum, the mandate is waning and nearly every poll now shows a majority in favour of Remain. Meanwhile, the Tories have shifted sharply to the right. Soon, a Prime Minister voted for by perhaps 0.1% of the public will be pursuing an extreme form of Brexit that will benefit no one but his chums in big business.
We want a confirmatory vote on Brexit because it’s the democratic thing to do. But we also demand it because it’s our chance to end this nightmare. Now is the time to talk openly about our values, campaign vigorously to Remain and put forward our positive vision for Britain in Europe. We need a vision for a more equal, radically sustainable country.
The last thing we need is more of the same. We’ve had enough of Project Fear, and of the same old faces waxing lyrical about our prosperity in Europe which simply wasn’t the reality for communities suffering through years of austerity and decades of neoliberalism. We don’t want any more discredited politicians attempting to save their careers with an uninspiring campaign to turn back the clock to 2015 and return to business as usual. We deserve better.
That’s why I’m proud to be part of Remain, Reform, Revolt - the new campaign launched by Another Europe Is Possible. We are not waiting for a referendum to be announced - we are starting now. We will be bringing our radical message of hope and solidarity to cities and towns across the UK, talking about what we can achieve if we end this chaos.
Leaving the EU, with or without a deal, would not end Brexit. Far from it, it would ensure that Brexit continues to dominate the headlines and poison politics for many years to come. Let’s channel that energy into transforming society instead, tackling inequality between people and between regions, building homes and creating decent jobs for all, taking power away from the establishment and giving people real control over their own lives.
To believe in Europe, it’s not necessary to pretend that it’s always a shining beacon for progressive values. Just like Westminster, it’s an arena of struggle. By using and reforming its structures, we can win change that goes far beyond what is achievable within one country. Let’s campaign for a Europe-wide Green New Deal, to end poverty and save the planet at once. Let’s end the race to the bottom on pay and workers’ rights by demanding a European Living Wage and the levelling up of living standards. Let’s work together to challenge the power of corporations and clamp down on tax avoiders. None of these things will be easy - but only organising across borders can make them possible. But first, we need to stop Brexit.
This summer, join us up and down the country as we fight to stop Brexit and transform Britain and Europe instead. We will be hosting public meetings, hitting the doorsteps and the high streets, and building the grassroots campaign we need to ensure that when a referendum is called, we are ready.
Clive Lewis is the Labour MP for Norwich South and a Shadow Minister for the Treasury
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.