My speech at my North & St Margaret’s Branch meeting in support of the motion Stop Brexit, Transform Britain and Europe. The motion was unanimously approved (one abstension) and, if approved by the all members meeting, will proceed to the Labour Party conference.
A motion similar to the one I moved has been prepared by a broad alliance including Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe and Open Labour and has been endorsed by the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group of MPs. Several CLPs throughout the country have already passed it. And it’s important that the number of CLPs which endorses it keep increasing.
This motion asks our party to take a clearer and more courageous stance on Brexit. There are two fundamental reasons why it is important and urgent that we take a clear stance.
The first is that we need to signal our members and voters that we learnt the lesson of the European elections.
The results of the European election were dramatic and require a prompt reaction. We lost 10 committed MEPs and 1,7 million votes compared to 2014, almost half of our total vote. We were at our all time low at 14%, 6% less than the LibDems and 17% less than the Brexit Party, which we were supposed to stop.
These results show that Labour Brexit policy was neither clear nor convincing and voters on both sides of the Brexit divide abandoned us. We are talking about many among our most loyal supporters. It is estimated that 41% of our own members voted for another party. The overwhelming majority of the votes lost went to pro-Remain parties.
Now things are moving very quickly and it is conceivable that we will face a snap election in the next few months. A Tory Party with a new leadership might very well be tempted to fight an election under a no deal platform striking some agreement with Farage. It is absolutely crucial that if the time comes, in September or later, we will be able to mobilise our membership throughout the country against the worst Tory leadership in a generation. We can’t allow ourselves to be complacent towards a General Election fought with our electoral system and a disillusioned membership. We need to send a signal to our members and voters and give all of us a renewed sense of purpose. For better or worse, a clear commitment to democratically rediscuss Brexit is the only message that can achieve such outcome in such a short time.
The second reason has to do with our collective duty to honour democracy at all times.
I am personally empathic towards Corbyn’s attempt to build a narrative capable of including leavers and remainers but he needs to give this narrative a clear objective. As some of you might remember, last Autumn I presented in this branch a campaign to Take a Break from Brexit . This campaign, launched by the pan European movement DiEM25 which I also represent today, was calling for a long extension of article 50. We thought it was important to gain time to reject both the botched deal negotiated by Theresa May and a catastrophic no deal but also to unite leavers and remainers in a serious attempt to change Europe.
This is what most of our members and voters want and what this motion asks. It is not acceptable for a democratic movement that its membership views are not taken into account in deciding its most important policies.
The motion also recognises that there is no democratic mandate for any Brexit settlement. The ill designed referendum in 2016 never clarified what Brexit meant and Parliament was clearly unable to interpret the meaning of that vote. The citizens must have a say before any conclusion of the Brexit process. I personally think that this conclusion should be postponed again with another, hopefully longer extension and with some form of deliberative democracy of the form of citizens assemblies. At the end of which the Labour Party should stand clearly for a public vote with an option to remain in the European Union.
I want to conclude emphasising that this motion is supportive of the leadership of the Labour Party. In fact I would like to say to all members who are critical toward the leadership that we don’t need to fight Corbyn on Brexit. We need Corbyn to fight Brexit with us. Let’s tell him all together that the real fight starts now.
Real fight starts now. Over next two years Labour will use every opportunity to ensure Brexit protects jobs, living standards & the economy.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 8, 2017
Stop Brexit, Transform Britain and Europe
Conference notes the vast majority of Labour members and voters oppose Brexit. Our policy must reflect members’ overwhelming support for a public vote.
We cannot go into a general election without a clear Brexit policy. If we leave the EU, Brexit does not end. We face years of negotiations and neoliberal trade deals. Any form of Brexit threatens jobs, workers’ rights, migrants, the NHS, public services and the environment, and makes it harder to deliver a radical manifesto.
Brexit is part of a right-wing nationalist exploitation of global economic and social crisis.
- We will challenge the narratives of the far right, addressing the reasons people voted Leave. We will attack poverty, insecurity and inequality; rebuild communities with public investment and ownership; boost wages and union rights; and combat the climate crisis. We will defend free movement and extend migrants’ rights.
The Leave vote is three years old. What was meant by Leave was never clear. There is no mandate for any Brexit settlement. Democracy demands the people have a final say.
- Labour will campaign energetically for a public vote and to Remain.
- We support extending Article 50 if necessary to prevent No Deal.
Capitalism is transnational; we need transnational institutions and workers’ movements to challenge it.
- We will build cross-border alliances to transform Europe with socialist policies, starting with a Green New Deal, levelling up of wages and rights, and ending Fortress Europe.
- Labour will help convene an international conference of left parties, unions and social movements to coordinate this struggle.