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Explained: Labour’s Brexit contortions


LABOUR has finally got off the fence over Brexit, it seems. It is now to campaign for another referendum on Brexit. And in that referendum, it will campaign for Remain.

That seems clear enough.

So of course that cannot actually be Labour policy.

Labour policy has to be unclear. There has to be ambiguity. Why? So that any position the party holds can also be any other position should this be opportune. Labour’s own rules over the election of its leader were so ambiguous it required the services of two High Court judges to unravel.

And in this case Labour is true to form.

Labour will campaign for a referendum and then for Remain if (or when) the government secures a deal to exit the EU. Or if the government does not and the UK exits the EU without a deal. So Labour seems to be campaigning for a referendum after the need for a referendum has evaporated. Unless Labour wants a new referendum after the UK leaves the EU. Which seems the only possible interpretation. Possibly.

Except that Labour is not entirely campaigning for Remain.

Should Labour win a general election before the UK leaves the EU, it will negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU and put the deal to a referendum. Presumably it will campaign for the Brexit deal it has negotiated. It would be absurd for a Labour government to have negotiated a new Brexit deal and then to campaign for Remain in any subsequent referendum. But this is the Labour Party we are talking about here. Still, let us assume that when Labour announces a policy it makes sure it has passed a sanity test. Or what passes for sanity in the Labour Party. Remember that Labour campaigns against racism. Labour also tolerates anti-Semitism. So it is possible it can be of two minds on Brexit as much as it is calculatedly ambiguous over racism.

So Labour is pro-referendum and Remain if there is to be no general election this year so that it can hold on to Remain-voting seats in any future election where Remainers could punish Labour for failing to stop Brexit, despite Leave winning in a fair democratic vote. But that’s Democratic Socialism for you. This is so that the party can say it tried, but ‘the Tories, the Tories, the Tories’ (and ‘the DUP’). But Labour is also pro-Brexit should there be a general election before Brexit so that it can hold on to Leave-voting seats. I think. That is the only possible explanation. Unless it is the most probable explanation. Probably.

So in effect Labour has got off the fence and immediately taken a seat on a new, more elaborately-designed fence. But remember that both fences have been designed under a socialist regime, rather like the Trabants of Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite holiday destination of the 1980s, East Germany. So perhaps like the Trabants, and, if the reader will indulge a mixing of metaphors as much as it is possible to indulge this recycled mixed stance by Labour, this new Brexit/Remain policy will be smoky, unable to travel as promised, shoddily-built and unreliable.

So perhaps all the commentators have got it wrong. Corbyn has not been fence-sitting over Brexit. He has been trying to drive a Trabant through it, rather than a coach and horses, which would be far too elitist, although probably more environmentally-friendly and useful for his allotment. The only problem is, Corbyn can’t drive. But it would make a lot of sense for him to learn to ride a horse.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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