Mitch Benn: ‘Leavers, just stop asking for our help with Brexit’

PUBLISHED: 13:55 12 September 2017

Pro-European Union and anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, as the Commons debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill takes place.Picture: PA/Victoria Jones

Pro-European Union and anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, as the Commons debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill takes place.Picture: PA/Victoria Jones

PA Wire/PA Images

Right, so where are we now then?

When last we spoke, Keir Starmer had give us perhaps the first hint that Labour might be starting to back away from at least a “Hard” Brexit, if not (yet) Brexit altogether. Nothing much else (at time of writing) seems to have happened on that front; Labour appear now to be devoting most of their energy to relitigating last year’s “Traingate” incident. Good to see their sense of priority is as unmuddied as always.

Meanwhile, we’ve spent most of the last week reiterating what are now becoming Brexit clichés; the well-worn themes of the slow-motion car crash which continues to transfix us: the sheer lack of preparation or even basic competence of our “negotiating team”, and the ever-more slack-jawed disbelief this provokes on the part of their European interlocutors. In the last day or so, there have been rumours (perhaps substantiated by the time you read this, perhaps not) of some sort of delaying tactic about to be deployed by the Prime Minister herself in order to at least temporarily derail the Brexit talks for a couple of weeks, presumably to give herself and her colleagues a bit of breathing (and possibly firing) space.

Let’s contemplate the irony of that for a moment before we move on (I nearly said “delicious irony” but there’s been nothing delicious, or even slightly tasty, about this debacle at any stage): our own government, we are told, in order to make one last futile attempt to get its non-existent ducks in a row, is planning deliberately to upset and interrupt the most vital constitutional discussion for centuries. Now remind me, what was that name they’ve been calling us for the at few months?

Oh that’s it. Saboteurs.

Now that Labour have started to make vaguely sane-sounding noises with regard to Brexit, I find I’m not getting sucked into Twitterspats with glassy-eyed Corbynists quite so much as has been the case these last few weeks. Rather it’s the Brexiteers themselves that I’m running into again. I’m doing my best to be civil; I’m not trying to corner them on the big, by now unanswerable questions regarding their continued support for the insupportable. I’m not asking them if they can do the thing that I’ve been asking all Leavers to do since before the referendum and which not one of them yet has; specifically, to name a single actual tangible practical benefit that Brexit will bring. Part of the reason I’ve stopped asking this question is that nobody is even pretending to have an answer to it any more.

They’re not even responding in the abstract like they used to, throwing up concepts like “sovereignty!” and “control!”, whatever those words actually mean in a country where a government can, as the Conservatives did in 2015, win 24% of the available vote (37% of a 66% turnout) and nonetheless form an administration with absolute executive power over the whole nation, including regions where they came fourth. In that sort of set-up, when people say things like “we need our sovereignty back!” or “we must take back control!” the most obvious reply is “who the hell is WE?”

The nearest thing anyone has left to a pro-Brexit argument is an attempt to repudiate or minimise the anti-Brexit case. To point out that the damage might not be as profound or long-lasting as the Remoaners claim. Nobody is denying that there will BE damage, nor is anyone claiming that there will be any actual benefit. And yet onwards we march, acting as if Brexit is some sort of asteroid of inevitability hurtling towards us which we can do nothing to avert or avoid, some natural disaster to be survived, rather than – as is the case – an incredibly stupid thing we are choosing to do to ourselves. And, indeed, could choose NOT to do to ourselves.

The conversation one has with the few remaining (ironic) Brexiteers comes not from a question we’re asking them, but from the question they’re now all asking us. Namely, “Why aren’t you helping?”

That’s what they ask us these days. Yes, they say, we know you voted Remain but that’s all in the past now; surely what matters is that we accept the result and all work together to make a SUCCESS of Brexit! Isn’t it? Eh?

To this oft-posed question, my response – and the response of most of my fellow Remoaners is... one I’m not sure I can say in a newspaper. Hang on, I’ll check.

Editor, can you say “piss off” in The New European?

Ah. Looks like I just did.

Because that, in an expletive nutshell, is my response. That’s a ridiculous question. We didn’t vote against Brexit as some sort of intellectual exercise, or because we thought it was “trendy”; we voted against it because we recognised it for the suicidally bad idea that it was. And it still is a suicidally bad idea, referendum or no referendum. We voted against it because we didn’t want it to happen, and we STILL don’t want it to happen.

Besides, how has this suddenly become our responsibility? How has making a “success” of Brexit suddenly become OUR job? We’re the saboteurs to be “crushed”, remember? The enemies of the people to be scorned and left behind on the glorious road to the sunlit uplands of isolationist utopia. They didn’t need or want us then; why do they need us now?

Is it perhaps because even the most delusional Brexiteers are beginning to understand that they voted for the impossible? That one way or another, they’re not getting the isolationist utopia? Isolationism yes, but isolationism at the cost of a fractured economy, a shattered society and no audible voice in global affairs? Has making a success of Brexit suddenly become our job because the Leavers have finally realised it’s an impossible job, and they’d better start looking for someone else to blame?

Keep resisting.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We have a number of set phrases in English which we use in a rather automatic and semi-obligatory way at particular times and in specific social situations – such as ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’, ‘happy birthday’ and ‘happy new year’.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scotland's three biggest parties have all experienced sudden jolts in recent weeks. MAURICE SMITH reports on the tectonic plates shifting once again north of the border

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A fitting 48 times the hapless foreign secretary, currently backtracking from his bungled attempt to topple Theresa May, outraged with his thoughtless comments and ill-judged actions

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Lib Dems have stepped back from the Brexit cliff-edge.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Despite its devastating impact, Hurricane Irma passed with only a handful of deaths yet received wall-to-wall media coverage. On the other side of the world, floods have left a far higher death toll, yet reporting has been sparse. LIZ GERARD asks what is behind this apparent hypocrisy and what it says about us

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sir Vince Cable is to set out his bid to scupper Brexit by declaring “I am a proud saboteur”.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Imagine a town studded with watchtowers like San Gimignano in Tuscany, but set high on a plateau, 100 miles from the nearest centre of population.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A top Brexit Whitehall official has been moved out of the Department for Exiting the EU amid rumours of a rift with David Davis.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The venerable Dr Johnson described patriotism as “the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It might not have grabbed the world's attention yet but, says AURORA TORRES, the over-exploitation of sand is a looming crisis for the globe, causing environmental destruction, putting communities at risk and sparking illegal black markets

Monday, September 18, 2017

The lights are going out in comments sections all over the world.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Home Secretary Amber Rudd today accused her Cabinet colleague Boris Johnson of "back-seat driving" as the row over his Brexit intervention deepened.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I couldn’t make it to the March For Europe last Saturday; perhaps this dereliction of duty means my Remoaner licence has now been revoked and I must now be demoted to Regrumbler or Rewhiner.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Angela Merkel may be on course for victory but her campaign for the German chancellorship is not the stately procession it might seem from afar. TONY PATERSON joins her on a decidedly bumpy election trail

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thousands of anti-Donald Trump posters inspired by Second World War public information designs have been plastered across Washington DC.

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Trees are sanctuaries,” wrote the German author and poet Hermann Hesse. “Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

BONNIE GREER on the conviction that you can have your cake and eat it

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A legitimisation of radical right-wing ideology is taking place around the world. The world was shocked by the events in Charlottesville, America, and by Donald Trump’s failure to condemn racist violence.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT with the week's big stories

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mancunian musician Mark Reeder arrived in Berlin in 1979 and never looked back.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Britain will "soon regret" leaving the EU, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned in his annual state of the union speech.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Right, so where are we now then?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are playing a very dangerous game of nuclear poker, argues Paul Connew. But does either leader have the cards that could avoid destruction?

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Muslim feminist SEYRAN ATES opened a liberal mosque in Berlin this summer she was met with a barrage of death threats and fatwas. But she says she is undeterred in her campaign to use enlightenment values to defeat extremism – in all forms

Monday, September 11, 2017

Many of the materials we use derive their names from the towns they were first made in. PETER TRUDGILL explores the stories behind some of the best-known

Monday, September 11, 2017

Theresa May’s insistence that she is sticking around as PM may have been met with scepticism and incredulity, but PR agent MARK BORKOWSKI argues her reboot may yet work

Monday, September 11, 2017

His stricken condition fuels macabre speculation, but Michael Schumacher’s real legacy is the remarkable run of Grand Prix dominance which began 25 years ago. ROB BURNETT reports

Friday, September 8, 2017

Writer, April 17, 1885 - September 7, 1962

Friday, September 8, 2017

For comedian MITCH BENN, Theresa May’s attempts to extend her political life put him in mind of his favourite film, Blade Runner. Here, he goes on the trail of Downing Street’s replicant

Sunday, September 10, 2017

An estimated 50,000 passionate Remainers marched on Parliament yesterday demanding the Government reverse its Brexit strategy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tony Blair today made an explosive intervention in the Brexit debate, calling for tough new immigration rules which would allow Britain to stay in the EU.

Monday, September 11, 2017

British identity is fragmented like never before, with the rise of pop-up populism dividing people into “them” and “us”. Author PETER POMERANTSEV takes a deeply personal journey through Britain to find out what it means for the country

Friday, September 8, 2017

A refusal to confront its past leaves France facing an uncertain future, argues MARTIN EVANS

Friday, September 8, 2017

Al Jazeera may have its flaws, but its persecution is seriously bad news for the world, says PAUL KNOTT

Friday, September 8, 2017

If you’re looking for a phrase to describe the change in newspaper print circulations this year, it might well be “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”. The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) demonstrate that only the Metro managed to increase its print circulation year-on-year, with every single other national title recording a fall.

Friday, September 8, 2017

It’s not just back to school for the nation’s children, this week, but also for politicians and British business.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Modern Germany has a very different political and media culture to our own, and some of that was on display in Sunday’s ‘TV-Duell’ between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her SDP challenger Martin Schulz.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

STEVE ANGLESEY picks out the worst Brexiteers of the week

Thursday, September 7, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT on the week's big stories

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Britain's chances of being ready to begin EU trade negotiations by the next round of trade talks in October are "in the neighbourhood of zero", former European Council president Herman van Rompuy warned today.

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter