Labouring on

Peter Kenyon highlights lessons to be learned from Brexit in or out

Dear Reader – I’m writing this on Saturday 26 October. We know the EU Council has agreed a further extension of Article 50 in principle, but not for how long. We may have to wait until Tuesday. We know the Zombie Government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to table a motion on Monday to dissolve Parliament under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass, to hold an election on 12 December. There are parliamentarians thinking through ways of thwarting the Zombies and maybe enabling the British electorate to decide whether to leave the European Union or remain. I could join the speculation. But there will be plenty of that before this edition of Chartist reaches you. In any event the matter could actually be decided, not by 31 October as Johnson boasted, but not long afterwards.

More interesting, let’s reflect on a few of the key lessons to be learned for the future – in or out.

My hope is that the issue of our future membership remains to be decided. What is inescapable is a widespread and profound ignorance among the electorate about our relationships with the other member states of the European Union built up over the last 45 years. Travelling round the EU, I never cease to marvel at the display of the EU flag alongside the national and local flag of the town or city I am visiting. Most vivid is that of the German Bundestag, where one of the four corner towers is reserved for the golden stars on a blue ground. Tales of a lack of awareness about local facilities in the UK funded by EU taxpayers (including we Brits) abound.

We are living in a country in political denial about the origins of and evolution of what is today the largest democratically governed international bloc in the world of which we are/were a full member. Shouldn’t our politicians be proud to be interviewed and photographed for domestic political purposes against a background of both the EU and national flags? How else could our membership become embedded in our national psyche?

So much collectively agreed legislation and regulation now shapes our daily lives, and so few of us are aware of the benefits. So much has been drowned out by the lies of the Brexiteers and Leave campaigners. So next time you go for a paddle off Bournemouth Pier just remember the absence of sewage floating in the sea is in part thanks to the EU and the blue flag scheme – gettit blue flag. Those who could afford a holiday in one of the other EU states might be aware that you don’t have to clean your teeth in bottled water, just turn on the tap – water quality standards are regulated across the EU. Then there is the EU regional aid and investment that has been allocated to the most deprived areas of the UK for decades, in an attempt to aid those people who have felt left out, or ignored by the Westminster government.

If by some parliamentary feat, the UK is still in when you read this you won’t have to worry about supplies of essentials – whether food or medicines – for a while longer. Operation Yellowhammer will have been put on hold again. Millions of pounds will have been wasted on ‘preparing for Brexit’ instead of being invested in social care, preventative medicine, hospital staff and educational budgets. But that extension of Article 50 will never make up for the loss of investment in the UK that started in the months leading up to the EU referendum in 2016. That is when business uncertainty started its cancerous invasion of the UK economy.

The future of UK manufacturing, particularly that in overseas ownership, has been severely dented, and may never recover without an interventionist Labour government. The absence of a loud clamour from the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn declaiming the insanity of the Brexiteers’ aims poses a real handicap for Labour’s electoral prospects. And that assumes that there will be a ‘deal’ to leave. As for the future, if the UK is negotiating from outside the EU, we will all have to wait a long time before a new trading relationship is defined. In any event, if the Zombie Government is not defeated, we can only look forward to a very much poorer future, culturally, politically and economically.