Put it to the people

Theresa May’s game of Russian roulette with the lives of British people has to end. She is clearly in thrall to the ‘no deal’ crash and burn fanatical English nationalists of the ERG wing of the Tory Party. The three female defectors are the canaries in the Tory mine. Anti-Brexit ministers could well desert alongside many others over the next few weeks in the lead up to March 29th.

Labour has its own mixed bag of canaries with its defectors. They are no Social Democratic Party of the 1980s but it should be a wake up call to Corbyn and McDonnell to come off the fence, if not to campaign to ditch Brexit, then at least for the party policy of a public vote. It’s recognised ‘no deal’ would be cataclysmic. The last thing May wants is a general election. It means she resigns. So the only option is an extension of Article 50 and a public vote on May’s deal, which the EU side has resolutely argued is not up for renegotiation.

We recognise a referendum on the deal is a risk, but whether it’s a vote for or against the deal with other permutations, it seems only putting the decision back to the people will resolve the impasse.

To press for a people’s vote, as Manuel Cortes and Julie Ward MEP argue, would give the EU27 a strong reason for extending Article 50.

As the laughable Brexit dividend crumbles in the form of Nissan, Honda, Airbus and other companies scrapping investment plans and closing plants, and as hundreds of other companies freeze investment, the cost of Brexit becomes clearer.

The time for sitting on the fence is over. It’s time to act. Labour’s leadership need to call time on May’s brinkmanship. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are grassroots campaigners at heart. The campaign should take two forms.

Firstly, Labour should front a street-based and community-focused campaign, as argued by Alena Ivanova, to show that Brexit is bad for jobs, for the economy, for the environment, for workers’ rights, for public services, for migrants. Second, they should get behind a call for a public vote and mobilise for the 23rd March national demonstration.

This also means confronting the left nationalists in the party and trade unions. Anna Paterson provides an excoriating polemic against the perils of following a nationalist anti-EU narrative, however dressed up in leftist language. Brexit is a right wing nationalist project. There is a slippery slope for those who try to run a leftist take on it that leads to abandoning a commitment to free movement of people and a socialist internationalism.

Blaming EU migrants, indeed all immigration, and Brussels for our socio-economic problems is a dangerous and divisive narrative peddled by the right. We have to stand by the narrative that casino capitalism, corporate tax fraud and austerity are responsible for the woes of working people here and throughout Europe. As Don Flynn echoes Anna Paterson, Labour’s confusion and belated opposition to the Tory Immigration Bill illustrates the dangers of failing to champion the positives of immigration.

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would turbo-charge the English nationalists and xenophobes in the Tory party and beyond. It would give succour to racists and those who blame ‘foreigners’ for our social and economic ills.

Corbyn should reject these siren calls and listen to the party membership, Momentum and the vast majority of MPs and trade unions who oppose this insular political course. As the leaked TSSA union report reveals, Labour campaigning for a Brexit would mean a loss of 45 seats.

The prize for campaigning for a new deal in the EU could easily reverse this loss. It could consolidate the Remain vote, win most of the newly enfranchised 16-18 year olds who could not vote in 2016, enhance Labour’s standing in Scotland and build support in Leave-voting areas. If Labour could reverse a 20-point deficit in the 2017 snap election, it could definitely improve its current level-pegging polling by campaigning now for an internationalist, anti-austerity, pro-sustainable investment, pro-migration, remain and reform alternative. On Monday, Alex Sobel MP fills out what such a reform agenda might entail, to be followed by a counter argument from Bryn Jones citing other research highlighting the risks of a further referendum for Labour.

Brexit dominates British politics, the airwaves and public conversations because it is the most seismic issue of the modern post-war era. Nigel Doggett reminds us that human-made climate change is an even greater existential threat to life on earth. Protesting school students highlight that it’s not only Brexit that poses a huge threat to younger generations. David Toke cautions that carbon taxes should not be presented as the only solution in outlining a broader array of measures. Andrew Coates in analysing the Gilet jaunes (yellow vests) protests in France shows that without action against corporate polluters fuel taxes can backfire leading to politically mixed populist revolts.

Stephanie Clark looks at the new Long Term Plan for the NHS, finding an insidious threat of further privatisation in amongst some positive proposals for greater investment. On the international front Fabian Hamilton MP highlights the need for a multilateral withdrawal plan in Syria and United Nations led peace initiatives in the face of Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw. Sheila Osmanovic finds sources for hope for genuine solidarity amongst the peoples of Bosnia-Herzgovina against religious and nativist separatism.

Time is running out to stop a hard no deal Tory Brexit. In the absence of a parliamentary resolution Corbyn-led Labour must now screw up its courage and campaign for a public vote while going out on the stump to argue for a future with our socialist and green allies in the EU.

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