ANDREW ADONIS: It's time to end the Brexit appeasement

PUBLISHED: 08:28 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:33 30 May 2019

Election campaign literature from the Brexit Party, Labour, the Green Party, Change UK and UKIP, for the European Parliament elections. (Yui Mok/PA)

Election campaign literature from the Brexit Party, Labour, the Green Party, Change UK and UKIP, for the European Parliament elections. (Yui Mok/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

ANDREW ADONIS on the European election results, and Labour's failure to capture to secure the support of the Remain movement.

It goes with being called Adonis to woefully defy expectations. I lost count of how many people told me in the European election campaign that they liked - even loved - me but were voting Liberal Democrat or Green. Many were Labour party members.

My good friend Alastair Campbell, of this parish, was one of them - although he said this to me privately and didn't breathe a word in public until after the close of poll, so his hasty expulsion appears to be illegitimate as well as impolitic.

They all basically said one thing, often in these precise words: "I want to send Jeremy Corbyn a message." The message they wanted to send was simple: stop Brexit, don't appease it.

Jeremy has to stop playing both sides on Brexit so unconvincingly that, as Lloyd George said of Sir John Simon, the architect of appeasement in the 1930s, "he has sat on the fence so long, the iron has entered his soul".

For the sake of country and party alike, Labour must now come clean about its opposition to Brexit. We cannot continue with a formula akin to the design manual for a submarine - and one never intended to come to the surface.

Brexit is not viable for Britain. It was probably never viable, but it has long since become clear that a wholesale renegotiation on the basis of Labour's six tests, seeking maintaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union, is practically impossible. It is also unpopular.

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With the Lib Dems and the Greens out-polling the Brexit Party last Thursday, there is every indication that a substantial majority of the public now oppose Brexit.

Opposition to Brexit has turned to alarm as Nigel Farage completes his Tory takeover. In the ever more crowded Conservative leadership election there are basically just two candidates - Farage and Rory Stewart. Rory is the only one really standing up to extreme Brexit. All the others are Faragists.

Labour is the party of the NHS and the environment, fighting for better workplace and civic rights for working men and women. From the ruins of the Second World War, Labour rebuilt Britain and set it on course for European co-operation and membership of the EU. European unity and social democracy have advanced hand in hand as surely as the EU, together with NATO, have secured the peace of a continent long ravaged by bloody conflicts. The EU is our mission, not a flag of convenience.

We cannot continue with a cocktail of confusion. We owe it the country to be honest, and to lead strongly against Farage.

Last year's Labour's conference supported the option of a second referendum if we failed to get a 'good' Brexit or a general election. The time has come to make a second referendum our clear and settled policy, and for Labour to declare that it will lead Remain.

With Farage rampant, we do not have the luxury of time to secure this mandate at Labour's autumn conference, four months away. The party should, without delay, hold a referendum of party members to decide for, or against, support for a second referendum and Labour's policy in that referendum.

Principle not ambiguity; clarity not dishonesty; leadership not fence-sitting. These are the foundations for Labour's future success as a party of government. They are what the country desperately needs, and we have a duty to provide.

As for Sir John Simon, he tried to come off the appeasement fence when Churchill became prime minister. But the great Nye Bevan demolished him with one line: "No one believed that he believed."

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