Our party is still running scared on Brexit issues

PUBLISHED: 12:05 28 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:05 28 September 2017

Heidi Alexander and Alison McGovern

Heidi Alexander and Alison McGovern

$image.copyright

Labour MPs HEIDI ALEXANDER and ALISON McGOVERN on why their party cannot continue to brush Brexit under the carpet

Like the German word schadenfreude there is doubtless a compound noun somewhere that perfectly encapsulates a dilemma you pretend to grapple with whilst never really dealing with it in any serious or honest way.

If it doesn’t exist, then British politics needs to invent it and bring it to bear in every discussion on Brexit.

Sunday’s decision at Labour Party conference to avoid a priority debate and a meaningful vote on permanent membership of the single market, was a huge disappointment and a massive missed opportunity.

As pro-EU campaigners marched in their thousands outside the Brighton conference centre, party delegates were voting in a ‘priorities ballot’ which determined the issues to be debated and voted upon during the annual week of political debate.

Ludicrously, Brexit was not chosen after an effort by the Momentum pressure group to sideline the issue. Whilst Keir Starmer still got to deliver a short speech and a handful of delegates got to outline their views in a general debate, there was no motion and no means of taking any action at the end of the debate; it was simply an airing of views. The inescapable fact is that the prospect of a motion on Brexit prompted a feverish arm-twisting operation to prevent a full and proper debate that would have given members a say on Labour policy.

This is exasperating for the thousands of us involved in the Labour Campaign for the Single Market (www.labour4 singlemarket.org) because we know that the country is crying out for honesty and clarity on the biggest issue of the day.

We don’t disagree that the other priorities chosen for debate at this week’s conference – the NHS, social care and housing – are all critical, but they will all be hugely affected if we don’t protect our economy and the public finances.

The difference between staying in the single market (outside of the EU) and no deal could be, according to Treasury analysis, £25bn. Crashing out of the EU on WTO terms is estimated to cost £45bn compared to the status quo. This is five times the amount we spend each year on GPs. It is three times annual local authority expenditure on social care for the elderly and disabled.

These are massive figures and yet they may be hard to grapple with if you don’t spend your time interrogating public expenditure statistics. We do. And it is precisely because we know how desperate the NHS, schools and councils are for proper funding.

Tentative and imperfect though it is, Starmer has edged Labour towards a position whereby we seek to retain the economic benefits of remaining in some form of single market arrangement and customs union, subject to negotiations. So with those benefits accepted what is holding us back? John McDonnell was explicit when talking to Peston on Sunday; it is difficult to see how we can remain within the single market because of the four freedoms. Immigration illusions are set to make us poorer.

This is a peculiar state of affairs. We currently control immigration from countries which make up 90% of the world’s population. Even within the EU we have the power to tighten the rules about immigration from the remaining 10% but we have chosen not to.

Instead of accepting the premise that immigration is something to be drastically curbed, we should be honest about the drawbacks of decreasing immigration. Fewer migrants will leave us with fewer workers to plug gaps in the labour market brought about by our ageing population. Fewer EU migrants will means fewer taxpayers and fewer people spending money in our shops.

A close but devastating Brexit defeat based largely on alarmist populism should have shaken us out of our stupor and made the case for a frank debate with the immigration myth-makers more urgent. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, whose real views on immigration are both welcoming and welcome, should have added impetus to that.

The Labour Party’s extraordinary decision to reject a debate and vote on Brexit demonstrates we’re still running scared rather than facing immigration concerns head-on.

When a quarter of all motions submitted to conference party this year were on Brexit, it is wrong this debate has been stifled. We won’t be silenced through a procedural sleight of hand and if we can’t have the debate on the floor, we will take it out into the country.

In the next 12 months the Labour Campaign for the Single Market aims to have this debate in each and every one of the UK’s 650 constituencies. If you are a party member or know someone who is, get in touch and help us to ensure the campaign for Labour Conference 2018 starts today. Next time we can’t allow Brexit to be brushed under the carpet.

Heidi Alexander is Labour MP for Lewisham East; Alison McGovern is Labour MP for Wirral South; to support their campaign, sign the petition at www.labour4singlemarket.org

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

Friday, October 20, 2017

Our editor-at-large on his new party piece: the speech the PM should have made to her party conference

Friday, October 20, 2017

The ‘missing billions’ are a red herring, says ANGELA JAMESON. There are bigger things to worry about

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Leave trajectory has run into the sand, says JANE MERRICK. Now it is not just a ‘no deal’ that is on the cards, it’s a ‘no Brexit’

Friday, October 20, 2017

The comedian, musician and writer on the disgraced Hollywood mogul

Friday, October 20, 2017

STEVE ANGLESEY rounds up the losers and losers (because there are no winners) of another crazy seven days on Planet Brexit

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Theresa May’s refusal to tell a radio phone-in show how she would vote in a new Brexit referendum was a new low for the Maybot. Her interrogator IAIN DALE recalls the moment he put the question to her, and his surprise at her failure to answer it

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT on the week's big talking points

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why ‘no deal’ doesn’t work as a negotiating tactic, says JONATHAN POWELL – the man who helped negotiate peace in Northern Ireland

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brexit, and a careless attitude towards British influence in NATO, will consign the country to the margins and weaken the cornerstone of our defence, argues GEORGE ROBERTSON, the former NATO Secretary General

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Ukip leader Henry Bolton named the party's new 'shadow cabinet' today - and what a bunch they are

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Catalonians against self-rule came out in their thousands the weekend before last.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It might seem quixotic, at a time when Spain looks like it is falling apart, but could the country’s future lie in a union with neighbour Portugal? DAVID BARKER investigates ‘Iberism’

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ALEXANDRA HADDOW on the Nordic trendsetters who have style sussed

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A second referendum that reverses Brexit would have a "positive" and "significant" impact on the UK economy, which is on track to be crippled by its EU divorce, an influential think tank claimed today.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Making money is no longer enough for firms, say ANGELA JAMESON

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The question, in a quiet voice, came from a woman in the audience at the Henley Festival’s Brexit debate, in a quiet voice: “So what do I tell my children now? They planned to live and work for a time in Europe. What now?”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Millions of families already struggling with soaring prices could end up being another £500 worse off if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal, according to a report.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A day of action across the UK saw thousands of people take to the streets to demand Brexit is stopped.

Friday, October 13, 2017

People have been asking me if I know Simon Brodkin, the character-comedian/prankster who interrupted the Prime Minister’s conference speech to hand her a mock redundancy notice.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Angela Merkel’s power has taken a blow in the wake of the German election. Here Tony Paterson reports from Berlin on the new shape of German politics.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roland Garros had every intention of pursuing a career as a concert pianist. An air show outside Reims during the late summer of 1909 changed all that.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Chancellor has admitted no Brexit deal could leave planes grounded in March 2019.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Catalonian crisis has put Europe, as well as Spain, in jeopardy, says PAUL KNOTT.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It’s not a stretch to say that the economics of digital advertising are to blame for disasters like Brexit and Trump.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boris Johnson is desperate to get into Number 10 – but it seems the Prime Minister has other ideas.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We’re living in the Age of Cool Dad, with politicians obsessed with burnishing their pop culture credentials, says SAMIRA AHMED.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Theresa May has claimed “the ball is in their court” in a statement to the House of Commons updating MPs on the Brexit negotiations. Brussels, however, disagree.

Monday, October 9, 2017

By attempting to quash the result before it was even known, Madrid has made the case for Catalan independence all but unanswerable.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lawyers have told the Government that Article 50 is not binding and can be scrapped at any time before the March 2019 deadline, it has been claimed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The deluded fantasies of Leavers must have been inspired by the big screen says Have I Got News For You writer NATHANIEL TAPLEY. Here, he brings you the most Brexity films of all time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

France might be home of its most famous race, but Italy is the country with cycling in its DNA. To find out why, Patrick Sawer makes a tearful pilgrimage to its shrine to the sport.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Trieste, the city which has survived centuries of seductive illusions.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

As ambitions go, Lee Humphries’ is an unusual, if lofty, one – to ascend the highest points of 100 different countries. As he crests the halfway mark in his quest, he explains all to Julian Shea.

Friday, October 6, 2017

PETER TRUDGILL traces the clockwork progress of the word ‘orange’ from southern India to northern Europe, and finds the odd detour.

Friday, October 6, 2017

JUSTIN REYNOLDS on the Thomas Mann novel which tried to make sense of the descent of Europe’s most cultured nation into Nazism.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

In the days before Stephen Paddock reignited America’s gun control debate by raining down rapid fire carnage on the Las Vegas strip, a familiar voice was again calling the shots inside Donald Trump’s head.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ahead of the return to London of arguably his greatest work, Glengarry Glen Ross, Charlie Connelly considers the craft of polymath and playwright David Mamet.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

As with other such tragedies, the Las Vegas massacre quickly brought out the worst of the internet, says JONO READ.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

They have a new leader, but do they have a new purpose? RICHARD PORRITT went behind enemy lines at the UKIP conference and found a party on the brink.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spain is facing an existential threat, says JASON WALSH, with the country’s fragile compromise – which has held since the end of Franco’s dictatorship – now in tatters.

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter