Broad front against Johnson

Labour clarity on opposing Brexit is needed, says Trevor Fisher, in assessing the threat of a Johnson premiership and Labour Brexit rebels

Labour’s Brexit debate is failing to put a Boris Johnson premiership centre stage. The announcement on 9th July indicates a Remain focus up to a general election, with a Leave focus in the election itself. The ambiguities are designed to hold the Parliamentary Party together without looking at how a Bojo premiership would shape up.

The Daily Mirror said on 10th July: “It remains unclear whether as Prime minister Corbyn would champion staying in or quitting under a Labour negotiated deal. Clarity is now crucial after months of Labour confusion. Voters need to know where Corbyn would stand on any of the scenarios which lie ahead of us”.

Fair comment, but strategy has to take account of Boris Johnson. He cannot call an election because of the Brexit Party. Farage is likely to take enough Tory votes to deny Johnson a majority if Brexit has not happened. So the priority is getting the UK out of the EU, and thus “do or die” by October 31st.

Will Johnson prorogue parliament? Not immediately as parliament goes into recess, but a No Deal outcome is likely after a token negotiation, after which if no concessions are made two likely paths can emerge. Either, Bojo will attempt to prorogue parliament to allow existing legislation to roll the UK out of the EU using the 2016 vote as the mandate when parliament is due back in September. Or, pushing a No Deal Brexit through with support from pro-Brexit Labour MPs. The 26 who signed the June 19th letter to Corbyn are prime candidates.

This is more likely than a controversial proroguing of parliament. The 26 plus other pro-Brexit MPs are likely to counteract 20-30 Tory Rebels, if there are any, and noises from the Labour side are ominous. We should remember in January talk of transactional politics emerged – cash for constituencies if the MPs voted for Theresa May. John Mann was prominent in talking up this option. But now we may have no transactions, just a vote for Boris Johnson to Leave with No Deal. This could split Labour like 1931 and is a prime reason for the ambiguity of policy.

Chartist should lead the way in removing this ambiguity and making it clear that Labour MPs cannot vote for a No Deal Brexit – the letter from the 26 was advocating signing up for a Norwegian-style soft Brexit (which is no longer available) and talked up avoiding No Deal. But No Deal is now starting to gain impetus and Labour MPs must oppose it root and branch. A new Prime Minister does not have a mandate for a No Deal Brexit – and this has to be a campaign in its own right. A broad front campaign against Donald Trump’s biggest UK Tory supporter can and should be the priority up to the Halloween deadline.

Trevor Fisher

Trevor Fisher edits the Brexit Skeptic blog.