With May’s Negotiations in Chaos, Labour Offers Strong and Stable Brexit Leadership

Prime Minister Theresa May was supposed to be the “safe pair of hands” whose leadership would lead Britain through the storm of Brexit. It is on this basis that she has called the snap general election.

But May’s Brexit negotiations are unfolding disastrously. She has accused the EU 27 of ganging up on the UK in favour of their interests. It’s almost as if they are a union of countries formed to mutually cooperate, or something. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker allegedly says she is occupying another galaxy in regards to her negotiating position and predicts a diplomatic collapse.

May dismisses these unconfirmed reports as Brussels gossip. But we do know she dangles the country over the precipice of a hard Brexit falling back on World Trade Organisation rules that would impose a raft of tariffs and barriers. The thousands of UK businesses that depend on EU trade are unlikely to be impressed.

May promises Juncker that she will be a “bloody difficult woman”. Her mastermind strategy is to be as awkward and intransigent as possible. Is May simply incompetent or grandstanding to appease her party base? As well as seeking ties with Donald Trump she appears to be imitating him.

This is the ideological Brexit of the Tory right and UKIP

The Tories are fighting the election on two planks: May’s ability to manage Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s unsuitability to serve as Prime Minister.

Labour’s fortunes have improved as May stumbles at the first hurdle. Realistically, the opinion polls still indicate a Tory landslide, but if Labour can continue their upwards trajectory they will have room for optimism.

However, not only does Corbyn have to win over Tory voters, but also Remainers who accuse him of being a closet Brexiteer, pointing to his ill-thought-out call for Article 50 to be triggered immediately.

I voted Remain and believe that Corbyn was being transparent when he rated his enthusiasm for remaining in the EU as seven out of ten.

Though Corbyn was always a left-wing Eurosceptic, siding with Michael Foot to oppose Common Market membership in 1975, his position was remaining in the EU to reform and influence it from within.

Not only to protect the UK economy but to strengthen protections of workers’ rights, human rights and the environment - an EU closer to the “Social Europe” envisioned in the 1980s by Jacques Delors.

According to YouGov, most voters want the UK to remain in the European Single Market after Brexit. The EU insists that the “Four Freedoms” (of goods, capital, services and people) are indivisible, so this might be a case of the public wanting to have their cake and eat it.

But it stills signals the desire for openness with Europe instead of pulling up the drawbridge. The social democracies of Norway and Iceland, outside of the EU but still Europeans in principle, provide a framework for a Labour Brexit.

May’s Brexit includes the leaving the Single Market and the European Court of Human Rights that is independent of the EU, which only the dictatorship of Belarus refuses to comply with. This is the ideological Brexit of the Tory right and UKIP, the ethos of the Faragists who support the French presidential candidacy of Marine Le Pen.

Labour can build a serious pitch as sensible and constructive negotiators

There are various reasons I will be voting Labour in this election. Their policies on the NHS, education, housing, employment rights and social security - just to name a few - but also their rational approach to Brexit.

If a Labour government were elected, Keir Starmer would replace David Davis as Brexit Secretary. Starmer, serving on the Queen’s Counsel, was both Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service before entering parliament. Brexit is a mammoth task, but he is an extremely qualified candidate for the job.

Starmer is an experienced human rights lawyer and his plan for Brexit would not only seek to retain Single Market access, but protect the rights of the 3 million EU citizens resident in the UK who have been treated disgracefully by the Tory government, threatened with deportation.

EU citizens are invaluable for our economy and public services, and have ties to this country that are far deeper than passports and permits, yet May threatens to use them as bargaining chips.

Starmer pledges to defend their rights, which is also one of the priorities of the EU 27. And it should be ours to protect the interests of the 1 million UK citizens in the EU. “To get a good deal, Britain needs all the goodwill possible, and to show subtlety and flexibility,” says Starmer. In other words he offers strong and stable leadership.

As May falters on Brexit, Labour can build a serious pitch as sensible and constructive negotiators in contrast to the chaotic and reactionary tactics of the Tories. They face a mountain to victory, but this will help them scale it.


More about the author

About the author

Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.

Follow Jacob on Twitter.

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