01 Jan, 2019
Chair's message to members - 1 January 2019
Dear Member or Supporter
My new year's resolution was "No more prevarication". Calories are being counted (using a flexible daily maximum), the dog is getting his daily walk (he is not too pleased in the cold weather), and I have made a list of all the jobs to be done around the house (did this last year but never got round to doing them - full of excuses - ever the optimist).
There are a lot of people who ought to have "no more procrastination" as their New Year's Resolution but who - as the Christmas cracker joke has it - seem to be putting off making that vow. So let's see what they should do.
If your deal is voted down and Corbyn's no-confidence motion fails there will be calls to postpone Brexit to allow more time. Procrastination has been your hallmark so you will be tempted to agree. But the UK's problem has not been lack of time for debate but a refusal to confront reality. OK, so fly around Brussels and some European capitals and try and see whether some comforting wording can be agreed without a new summit (the next is not until 21 March). If you like sit down with Jeremy Corbyn - once his fantasy deal had collided with EU hostility to cherry-picking it would look much like yours. The recognition that Brexit was a joint Corbyn-May proposal would horrify most MPs. But put it to Parliament again soon - first week of February. Watch it fail again. Then hand the decision to the electorate over the heads of MPs. Stop ducking the question: come out with it plain. You know what you think. Say "it's best to Remain".
Put up your alternative or stop pretending that it exists. Get your "Research Group" to do some actual research. Come up with a proper worked-up no-deal proposal. Or accept the Withdrawal Agreement and come up with a proposal for Great Britain but not Northern Ireland to move to a distant relationship with the EU - a Canada-style FTA. But do the analysis, explain the costs and benefits, risks and opportunities in concrete credible form. Stop just waving problems away and saying that it will all be alright if people have faith. Explain why you believe the one set of economists who support your stance (Patrick Minford: his model holds that distance and quality do not matter - read short and long critiques). Give us a list of all the EU laws you would repeal. Then you can make a case for your proposal to be on the ballot paper. If not, tell us it was all a dream.
Please move on to the decision point. Table your no-confidence motion on the day that Theresa May's deal is voted down (or for that matter if it passes - it is not as though the Government has done a good job). I assume you will fail to get your general election. Or acknowledge that you will not put the motion down because you think you will lose so the party can move on to the next step. You know what your party wants. You must realise that your stubborn refusal to give members the chance to stay in the European social democratic mainstream will tear your party apart. You have never run anything but should be able to learn all you need to know just now about management by looking at what the Government has achieved over the past 30 months of its non-Brexit programme: nothing. Recognise that if Brexit goes ahead you as Prime Minister would also not be able to implement any of your programme because you would be wholly focussed on Brexit. Solve the need to keep Labour supporters on both sides of the debate within the party. Put the question to a referendum. You personally can campaign with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrea Leadsom for Leave.
Read up on all those on the left who tell you that the Lexit case is just not consistent with the facts: LSE Blog; Fabian Society; Renewal; Open Britain (and ask yourself whether you think the attempt at refutation by Labour Leave really works). Go on holiday in the EU: use water provided by municipal and state-owned enterprises in many EU countries; travel on state-owned railways. Or just use the East Coast mainline, nationalised for the second time by a Conservative government. And then just explain to the rest of us why the UK but not other EU countries has to Brexit in order to have nationalised industries. Then ask what Labour voters (not the doctrinaire party elite) want. If the answer is Swedish welfare, German training, French healthcare, Dutch concern for left-behind communities then explain why Britain has to leave the EU and those countries don't. Tell us which non-EU countries are the exemplars we should aspire to emulate. Then stop backing Brexit.
Just as he did with his party conference speech, Corbyn has yet again confirmed in his Guardian interview that he would fight the snap election election he wants on a pro-Brexit platform. If he is a secret Remainer as so many believe it's under really deep cover. Labour Remainers who support Jeremy Corbyn have to face up to their dilemma: if they support Corbyn on everything that means supporting Brexit; if they support Remain it means rejecting Corbyn's EU policy. To oppose Tory Brexit and support Corbyn's Brexit works if your priority is an immediate Labour government; but it is not a Remain policy. To call now for a general election is to ignore Brexit. Let me point out something obvious: if we Remain there will still be general elections. Labour Remain MPs need to decide their priority: Remain or loyalty to Corbyn; if it is Remain, they need to work out how to deliver that in the face of the Labour Leader's commitment to Brexit. Here is a list of organisations for Labour supporters who are campaigning for Remain or a People's Vote - you can join them in encouraging MPs to prioritise Remain and a referendum: Labour for a People's Vote, Remain Labour (who have organised a rally on 8 January - free tickets here), Labour against Brexit.
The MPs of course will not vote to bring about a Corbyn government. But they need to tell the Labour whips that once the deal has been voted down they will vote with them if Labour come out for a referendum. Conservative party supporters should encourage their MPs to do so. If Theresa May's sense of duty obliges her to implement the referendum result it would also oblige her to implement a Parliamentary instruction to have a referendum. There are groups you can join: Conservative Group for Europe; Conservatives for a People's Vote, Citizens4Britain (Tories against Brexit).
The People's Vote campaign and the national Remain organisations
We need to Campaign for Remain. The country is still at half and half on the merits of Brexit. That is because the People's Vote campaign has focussed on the referendum (plus the harms of Brexit) and not on Remain. Research showed that talking about Remain put Leavers off a referendum. Well yes obviously. It is only Remainers who wish to change course. So the campaign asked the wrong question. The actual task is to work out how to talk about Remain in a way that changes minds. More Remainers, more supporters of a referendum.
The Remain campaign should be party neutral. Corbyn and his loyalist MPs are not going to rescue us; so in Parliament it has to be the Conservative Remain MPs who join Labour rebels to do so. Moreover, there are three to six million Conservative Remain voters. That means campaigning in a way that does not put off Conservatives (or any other party). Too much of the Remain campaign looks like a Labour front. Though the harms of austerity is central to Labour's general election message, it is no more than a part of the reason why some people voted Leave. It is irrelevant in the prosperous Leave-voting South. Throughout Leave-land immigration and sovereignty were real issues. A Remain campaign that focusses on austerity will lose. We have to address the concerns Leave voters actually had, not just those that we feel comfortable talking about.
Each one of us
London4Europe will, jointly with the London Pro-EU Forum, be hosting a meeting this month with London local EM branches and other campaigning groups to start to plan the referendum campaign itself. That will in due course create new opportunities for each one of us to play a more active part in a structured campaign framework in order to secure continued UK membership of the EU in the referendum.
I ask that if you are not yet engaged in local campaigning you do now make contact with your local group or one nearby. I ask also that you pre-register on the L4E website as a volunteer so that we can contact you when the campaign really gets going. We need more committed people - please urge your friends and people you meet campaigning to sign up as a paid-up member of the EM or as a supporter (no charge) of London4Europe and to connect with local branches. A more general answer to the question What can I do? is on the website
2019: Time to get on with it
2019: the year we work together to stop Brexit, re-energise the UK's commitment to the great European peace and friendship project, and begin the process of healing the country's divisions.
I'm rather looking forward to it.
Happy new year!
E-mail: [email protected]
Do you like this post?