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Labour must now relentlessly focus on our national interest

3 min read

Leaving the EU was avoidable - Corbyn failed to stand up on this crucial issue from a values-based position, writes Neil Coyle MP. 

In our four decades of membership, the European Union has been shaped to serve our national interest. Current Tory representatives seem ignorant of Britain’s role in shaping EU law, institutions and of Thatcher’s role constructing the Single Market. Thatcher would have rejected Brexit, but her Party is dead. 

The ‘party of business’ is now led by a man who would let Brexit ‘f-business’. The party of unionism risks Scotland’s departure and faced Ulster Unionists calling for the rejection of Conservative candidates in December.

The ‘party of law and order’ led by a man who unlawfully shut down Parliament, lied to the Queen and runs a country where 13/14 crimes go unpunished. The Tory Party has been taken over by single-issue cranks. They purged Cameron’s team, even Churchill’s grandson, and are now a brigade of ‘at any cost’ Brexitremists. 

Leaving the EU was avoidable. Had Cameron and Osborne been stronger in handling the minority ERG. Had they disciplined Ministers who broke ranks and lied throughout the Leave campaign. Had the Remain campaign had full support and energy from Labour’s leader. Jo Cox and I wrote in May 2016 that Corbyn needed to step up to that campaign.

He failed and has failed on Europe ever since.

The Socialist case for an international organisation, cooperating for peace and security, tackling poverty and global issues and corporations should be obvious. Corbyn failed to stand up on this crucial issue from a values-based position. His triangulated fudge pleased no one and cost votes in December. 

Corbyn did not even need to help send voters to the ballot boxes early. Johnson was desperate for the premature election and everyone predicted the result. Corbyn’s dreadful personal polling led to Labour’s dreadful result. Corbyn’s folly, albeit egged on by Lib Dems and the SNP, ended the delicate Parliamentary balance that was delivering results and has contributed to Johnson’s majority and our departure from the EU now. 

Leaving is against our national interest. Theresa May warned the country in 2016 that Brexit would undermine our national security and economy. Well, ‘nothing has changed’. My role, and that of all Remainers, will be to focus on the damage the Government admits is pending: to highlight every job lost, every penny of disinvestment that could have benefitted the UK, every struggle to recruit, each and every aspect of Brexit that we have been warned to expect. To work with every employer, from every sector as reality bites. 

Johnson told the country simplistically he would ‘get Brexit done’ as though it is a flick of a switch. It is not and will take many more months of negotiations and pain. Johnson must be made to own the losses and challenges created. He must own his irresponsibility.  

Sadly, at this crucial moment Labour is AWOL, navel-gazing over internal elections. Neither our outgoing leader, nor the wannabe next leader and Shadow Brexit Secretary, even replied to the Withdrawal Bill passing. The Commons was left to a pathetic Point of Order from the SNP. Labour must get back to the table ASAP. We can only win again if and when Labour consistently focuses on the national interest which is being so badly failed by Johnson and his Brexit brigade. The public mood will shift fast and we must get ahead of the curve. 

Neil Coyle is Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. 

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