Brexit Breaking Up

If June was the month of Surge Politics, July was the month when the fragile mantra that Brexit means Brexit (patented by Theresa the Incompetent) finally broke apart. The papering  over the cracks in Labour’s manifesto was torn when Chuka Umuna led a Commons revolt over the single market, and shrivelled when Corbybn said on the Marr Show on July 23rd he would, if PM, take the UK out of the single market. On 24th his Trade Sec Barry Gardiner wrote a bizarre article in the Guardian in which he argued that Brexit meant Brexit and we must not join the EEA as we could negotiate a better deal with the EU when totally outside.

Manuel Cortez of TESSA then wrote on Labour List that this was nonsense and the idea of ” post Brexit Trade Deal which is more advantageous, or the same, as that we enjoy through our current membership belongs in  never never land”.  John McDonnell and  Keir Starmer may agree as they seemed to want to rule Single Market into a Labour negotiation should Jezza become PM, while Diane Abbott seemed to sit on the fence as the Shadow Home Secretary said that ‘all options’ were on the table.

Outside the Shadow Cabinet, Sadiq Khan sensibly said that “For it (Remain) to have credibility with the British Public, there would have to be a manifesto offer… or referendum”.   In fact only a Third Referendum (the first was in 1975- Remain won comfortably – and 2016 – Leave won narrowly) would do. Unless Sadiq thinks the whole thing will run till 2022 as some Tories are now arguing.

Specifically Amber Rudd, Home Sec, and more importantly the Chancellor who looks to transitional arrangements which could last for three years taking us to 2022. Hammond does not want to have Brexit on his watch as the removal of immigrant labour and the single market would produce economic chaos. The Telegraph immediately pointed out that this would mean Brexit became an issue in the election due under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which Jezza voted to keep in place in 2014.  Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman accepted that there might have to be a transitional period but this must be strictly time limited by law to March 2021 maximum”. A new law then? But not if the Trade Secretary Liam Fox has his way, since he ended the week by making it clear that he had not been consulted on transitional arrangements and he was not in favour. So at least there is agreement – across the parties, though not inside the parties.

With the Tories and Labour split on Brexit, and the only national party committed to Remain opting for Labour’s fudge of a Soft Brexit in the election (aka a Brexit for Jobs, or Christmas for Turkeys) under their last leader and seeing their vote share  drop to 7 per cent, even the Lib Dems can’t offer a strong anti Brexit campaign. So as the parliam,,entary pantomime is offering nothing, there has to be a new turn.

Hammond is trying to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ exit as the effects would be disasterous for the Treasury, but has less and less room for manoeuvre. The exit date is March 29th 2019 and this is at the time of   writing – 31st July 2017 – less than 20 months away. As the problems increase, only a sharp NO to Brexit based on winning a Third Referendum will do. It’s not possible for the issue to drag on for 5 years as the cliff edge fundamentalists will hold out for a complete break in 2019. Only stopping this will do, by vetoing Brexit and Sadiq Khan is right to say that a clear option has to be given to the people. How can the Third Referendum be achieved and won?

The lack of an adequate organisation with proper funding is the key problem. There are 3 Westminster pressure groups, perhaps one for each party, and all useless. The Grassroots Another Europe is Possible is under  resourced and has little presence and no media profile. Volunteer initiatives become overstretched and are over-reliant on the parliamentary pantomime. It is time for a  new approach with a clear focus on a Third Referendum capable of taking on a Brexit Means Brexit campaign well resourced and – with Nigel Farage poised to re enter the fray- able to counter all that Brexit can devise. Machiavellian they may be, but invincible they are not. If A Capaign To Vote Again can be brought about. There are less than twenty months to go.

Trevor Fisher

July 2017

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