East Yorkshire born campaigner, CHEVAN ILANGARATNE, sets the stall for how Labour’s leader could get the Leave voters of Hull on side in a second referendum campaign.
This amazing city of Hull embodies the Labour traditions just as much as any in England. I’m exceptionally proud to have in my party the talents of your elected Labour MPs – Diana Johnson, Emma Hardy and Karl Turner MP. And I’m incredibly happy to be here today in the 2017 UK City of Culture. When I spoke here during the 2017 general election campaign – I discussed the damage the Tory government had done through their ideological assault on the most vulnerable in this country – and promised to create a society for the many not the few. As you know, and despite our best efforts, we didn’t secure a majority, but now more than ever, we are on the cusp of power – and that’s thanks to you, the people, who believe in the formation of a radical and progressive Labour government.
But today I come to speak about undoubtedly the most divisive issue of our generation – which has caused endless debates over the dinner table, across political parties, and within our parties. That is of course EU membership.
This city overwhelmingly voted to leave in the June 2016 EU referendum. As you know I, just like your elected MPs, were of the remain persuasion. But upon the result, the Labour Party promised to support the implementation of the result: to leave the European Union. That is why in the 2017 general election we campaigned on a manifesto to deliver a ‘jobs first Brexit’ – to negotiate a deal with the EU that protects jobs, the economy, and crucially our social and environmental protections.
And we have done our very best to steer the government in exactly that direction through tirelessly holding them to account in parliament. Unfortunately, the government – propped up by the DUP – have done their level best to sideline parliament and shut off debate at every juncture. From the triggering of Article 50, the publication of government’s economic forecasts for Brexit, to the disclosure of Attorney General’s advice on Brexit – this government’s treatment of this process has been utterly appalling. It is little wonder that they picked up the accolade of becoming the first government in the history of this country to be found in contempt of parliament.
Now we find ourselves in a position where, after two years of botched negotiations, the Prime Minister has cobbled together a deal with the EU that threatens our economic wellbeing and prosperity, and leaves the door open for our hard-won rights to be dismantled and discarded. This is not a deal that is fit for the people of the United Kingdom; this is not a deal that is fit for the people of Hull.
Had Theresa May spent time consulting with opposition parties – she may have been able to secure a deal with the EU that secured a parliamentary majority in the Commons. Instead, parliament is gridlocked because the Prime Minister selfishly spent all her time trying to please the likes of the Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg who – let’s face it – don’t give a monkey’s about the working people of this country, least of all those in the North. And now we are running out of time before we are due to exit the EU – staring down the barrel of no-deal thanks to this government’s grotesque incompetence.
Labour have been very clear all along that we will not, in any circumstances, support a no deal Brexit – which we believe will be a catastrophe for jobs and the economy. A no deal Brexit will pave the way for the hard-right wingers in the Tory Party to make this country in to a Singaporean style tax haven on the shores of Europe – and sell our public services, like the NHS, off at any cost. A no deal Brexit will create a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after decades of peace. Labour will not be complicit in the driving this country off a cliff.
So, after much consideration, consultation with Party members, and analysis of the polls which indicate that many people in this country, including people who voted leave, are sick to death of Brexit – we have decided to throw our weight behind a final referendum on EU membership; and we will wholeheartedly be campaigning for remain.
A quick google search of my name will reveal that throughout my parliamentary career, I have often been critical of the European Union. It goes without saying that it must be reformed. But I believe that Britain’s interests lie inside, where a Labour government can work with socialist parties across Europe, to reform the structures and the rulebook that comes with membership. Britain unquestionably does better when it leads – not leaves.
All that being said, the EU must be praised for continuously supporting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections. The opportunities for trade and education within the EU has been to the benefit of this country. And cities like Hull have benefited vastly from the EU’s structural and investment funds. Whilst the Tory government have spent the last nine years giving tax breaks to the millionaires largely based in London, it is the EU that has ensured some of the poorest regions of the UK got the funding they deserve.
With climate change still a huge issue to tackle, Donald Trump offering chlorinated chicken to the UK with his eyes set on our NHS post-Brexit, and Vladimir Putin flexing his muscles, now is not the time to leave the European Union.
No, now is the time to get rid off this vicious Tory government, end austerity, and transform Britain for the many not the few.
Thank you very much.