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Brexit: Where do we go from here?

BrexitWhereNextThe Brexit debate has now become very unclear, with in my view many activists and quite a few MPs either confused or failing to understand that Labour’s position was and is the only one it is possible to take if the object is to minimise the damage to Labour and lay the basis for a future return of support.

Labour was put in a very difficult position by the outcome of the referendum vote. As the YouGov article by Anthony Wells makes clear: (), Labour took the line that was likely, based on polling, to be least damaging, i.e. respecting the result by not voting against Article 50, even without any amendments being agreed, and seeking to remain within the Single Market. The former retains some of those who might otherwise have gone to UKIP or the Tories, the latter those who might otherwise have gone to the Lib-Dems or Greens. There has of course been some movement of this kind anyway, but it could have been far worse if either a total Leave or Remain position had been taken.

A Leave only position, with about two thirds of both current members and 2015 voters in favour of Remain, would have been suicidal for Labour to take, and would have resulted in a massive loss of members and a serious reduction in support to probably below 20% in the polls. Yes, it would have gained some returners from UKIP and the Tories, but the corresponding losses to the Lib-Dems and Greens would have been far greater.

But it was never going to happen, as although left wing members and right wing MPs are at loggerheads the one thing most of them agree on is this.7

A Remain only position, while it would have been easier to carry within the party, would have had two very damaging results. Firstly, it would have caused a substantial loss of support among Labour Leavers, predominantly traditional working class Labour voters in non metropolitan areas. The strong implication would have been that the middle class elite that run Labour have disdain for working class Labour voters in the North who it suspects are somewhat racist and unprogressive in their views. Such sentiments would certainly have been spread by UKIP and the Tories, and would have been accepted by many such Labour voters because they would have appeared true.The loss of support would have been far greater than any retention of Remain voters who might otherwise have gone to the Lib-Dems.

Secondly, voting against triggering Article 50 would have been portrayed as being undemocratic and denying the will of the people. This is a serious argument and there is evidence that many Remain voters agree. Indeed, this and the lack of any significant change from Leave to Remain so far could well give the same result in the unlikely event of a second referendum.

The argument that the referendum was advisory, while constitutionally correct, is in practice nonsense. It was popularly conceived as binding, with otherwise no point in running it. The argument that people were misled is even worse. This can be said to be the case whenever the Tories win an election, but we do not then immediately call for another one.

There is a better argument that it was right for Labour to support Article 50 , but only if the amendments had been carried. However, if followed this would have barely registered. The crucial point would still have been seen as voting against the people’s will.

A ‘Norway EEA’ solution would retain single market membership and with the greater flexibility on immigration that it gives would be the least unacceptable solution for Remainers, avoiding a hard Brexit.

Some of the second referendum now campaigners allege that if an acceptable deal is not agreed then the UK will have to leave. However, much legal opinion thinks that if Article 50 is withdrawn within two years of it having been triggered then the UK could remain within the EU on the same basis as before. A case is due to be heard in Dublin shortly which should settle the matter.

What I have tried to do in this article is to demonstrate that Labour had no alternative to taking the line that it did, and that other alternatives would have been far more damaging, although the current line will still lose us some support, and is partly the reason for Labour’s deterioration in the polls since the referendum.

However, the situation has now changed. There will be no second referendum before Article 50 is triggered, which is likely to be next month. Labour will now be able to switch to the attack, positioning itself as the only genuine defender of the jobs, employment rights and living standards of ordinary people against a Tory government that will inevitably be seen to be sacrificing them, simply because there can be no favourable Brexit deal – the EU have made that perfectly clear. Coupled with what is likely to be mounting concern over job losses as more firms indicate they are considering quitting the UK, there could then be a switch back to Remain and to Labour as the one party that consistently sought to represent the interests of the majority. Under these circumstances a second referendum may well choose to reject a Tory deal, along with the Tories at the following election, without having to leave the EU after all if the two year period of grace (see above) proves valid.

Pigs might fly, I hear some of you say, but this is a credible scenario, and the only basis for Labour winning in 2020. The problem of reforming the EU would remain, but that’s another story.


  1. John Penney says:

    You certainly outline the difficult conundrum facing Labour – from a specific perspective of Labour politics, anyway. Unfortunately, what is entirely missing is any analysis of the nature and POLITICS of the EU and Single Market – beyond the purely tactical assessment of how to somehow retain electoral support from both “Remainers” and “Brexiters”, through slippery sloganizing to appear to appease both camps.

    Your underlying assumption is quite clearly that “continued EU membership is essential and a good thing” and a guarantor of employment rights and UK trade and general prosperity. This is of course a complete break with the longstanding socialist analysis of the EU, as a neoliberalism enforcing capitalist club, which , as a competitive trading bloc, is fully en-route to exactly the same neoliberal , privatised, worker’s rights-less, politico economic model as the extreme Tory Brexiters are hoping to achieve – just at a slower pace. The recent assault on basic workers rights by the Hollande government in France , with no protection whatsoever from EU rules – and the continuing ransacking of the Greek economy by the EU (and IMF) , should have given supposed UK “Remainer” Lefties the clue, and wake up call about the nature of the EU .

    So the actual Labour position today, as you correctly outline it, is not the principled , socialist, required one, ie, to GENUINELY accept the Brexit Referendum decision, but to fight, with the trades union movement mobilised en masse , to prevent the Tory extreme neoliberal Brexiters from carrying out the bonfire of workers rights they dream of imposing. Instead you state :

    “Labour will now be able to switch to the attack, positioning itself as the only genuine defender of the jobs, employment rights and living standards of ordinary people against a Tory government that will inevitably be seen to be sacrificing them, simply because there can be no favourable Brexit deal – the EU have made that perfectly clear.”

    Unfortunately , for you, and most of the pro Remain Labour Party membership ,
    this supposed ” Labour defence of workers rights” is just a transparent rhetorical ruse, with no action-based teeth – intended solely to keep the UK within the entirely neoliberal straightjacket of the Single Market – with its core “freedoms” – including unlimited labour supply.

    This is the reality of any continuing membership of the Single Market, whatever slippery claims are made about some sort of “concessions on Free Movement”.
    Unlimited labour supply is one of the four absolutely core neoliberal pillars of the capitalist project that is the EU AND Single Market, and the UK will not be able to stay in the Single Market without accepting it – regardless of some purely cosmetic “temporary brake” type deal – that Cameron so failed to impress the UK public with during his pre referendum negotiations.

    So in reality, regardless of all the slippery sophistry about “respecting the Referendum outcome” , Labour as a Party , has now completely forgotten/ignored, the core neoliberal enforcement nature of the EU , and the huge negative impact on wages and conditions, and communities, of unlimited labour supply, and has embraced continued membership of the very core of the EU structure – the Single Market.

    The utter tragedy of this completely, transparently dishonest position, is that it leaves the Tories to posture as the “champions of Brexit” with “ideological ownership” (with UKIP as competitor wannabe alternative owner) of the , hugely electorally popular, entirely bogus implicit promise of a massive decrease in net migration after Brexit is implemented.

    That this Tory promise is not only bogus, but that a neoliberal Brexit on our current economic model will inevitably mean hugely INCREASED net migration from now on, will not become clear for a few years yet – long after Labour has been crushed at the next General Election in our core pro-Brexit heartlands.

    So,a really, really, brilliant strategy Peter, which may appear to be a clever “Blair-style triangulation” wheeze of electoral positioning – but which will be seen through in a moment by Labour Brexit voters in our vital Labour heartlands, and cause an electoral wipe-out in 2020, or sooner if the Tories have any tactical sense.

    1. David Pavett says:

      John, I don’t think you describe Peter’s position correctly. You say of his position:

      This is of course a complete break with the longstanding socialist analysis of the EU, as a neoliberalism enforcing capitalist club, which , as a competitive trading bloc, is fully en-route to exactly the same neoliberal , privatised, worker’s rights-less, politico economic model as the extreme Tory Brexiters are hoping to achieve – just at a slower pace.

      The “of course” seems to indicate that for you this is all very cut and dried. I think that it is anything but that. There is a difference here over what constitutes analysis.

      It is not difficult to agree with you about the neo-liberal character of the EU as currently constituted. The issue is whether or not that automatically determines what our political response should be. Peter clearly believes, and I agree with him. that it does not do that. Many on the (older) left don’t agree but that is because they tend to think that it is possible to go straight from a judgement about the dominant function of an institution to a political conclusion about whether to participate in it. Peter clearly thinks that is a mistake and I agree with him.

      I remember that great educational historian Brian Simon fending off ultra-left rejectionist attitudes to state education by saying, in effect, “Yes, education in class society is a means of relaying ruling class ideas but it it is also many other things. Genuine knowledge also has to be transmitted and there is a battle over what this should be. Education is not only an instrument of class rule, it is also an arena of class struggle” (my words not his). I always thought that was very wise and I think it is a view with broad application. (Interestingly Marx took a similar view.)

      The use of institutions for implementing the interests of the ruling class is not a grounds for non participation. It is the grounds for careful consideration of our strategy and tactics and also the need to be very clear about our long-term objectives.

      There are clearly strong feelings on the left about the EU and that is understandable. Broadly speaking, I hate the institution taken as a whole but recognise advances that have been made within its framework which would not otherwise have been made. I hate the way our Parliament works and the deceptions it gives rise to. I hate the way our local authorities work – broadly as uncritical and apolitical agents on a giant conveyor belt transmitting government wishes.

      But none of this is a reason not to participate in our central and local government. They are not only instruments for oppression they are also arenas for the struggle to win support for an alternative view. I would apply the same reasoning to international institutions and the failure to do so seems to me to be the key flaw in your argument.

      I will agree that for people like Peter and me there is a fundamental problem with the approach to the single market. As you know I oppose the policy of both the free movement of capital and labour which I see as essentially neo-liberal. As you know also there is incredible confusion on the left about this with the majority thinking that anything other than total free movement is an unacceptable concession to the right.

      All of which amounts to saying that this is a difficult problem which requires more than formulaic responses of the EU-bad/reject EU type. We need a debate that moves beyond the slogans.

  2. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I could not get by Peter Rowland’s first sentence before I had an issue with his latest considerations on the implications of our recent constitutional referendum. “The Brexit debate has now become very unclear, with in my view many activists and quite a few MPs either confused or failing to understand that Labour’s position was and is the only one it is possible to take……”.
    First, Im not confused Peter. Its clear enough to me.
    Second, what exactly is Labour’s position? You say “it is the only one it is possible to take”. Please can you, for my benefit explain it in a sentence or two: what is it?

  3. C MacMackin says:

    Labour is in a difficult position. From an electoral perspective, I think the current stance is the right one–i.e. the one most likely to maximise retention of both Brexiters and Remainers, while keeping the membership relatively happy. That said, I’m still not convinced it is enough to win an election. The divisions between the remain and Brexit camps are such that I think Labour will loose a good chunk of it supporters whatever position it takes.

    My bigger concern, though, is what’s right from a policy perspective. A hard Brexit could have a big impact on the economy and result in job losses and further austerity. It would be especially problematic given the continued dominance of the City in the economy. The economic plans of the Tories to make a hard Brexit work look dreadful. Even with a Labour government, can a country with few natural resources and very little existing industry succesfully strike out on its own in the global economy? I’d like to think so, but there’s no denying that it would be incredibly difficult.

    On the other hand, many policies of a successful Labour government would necessarily violate EU directives. Peter Rowlands himself has stressed the need for capital controls to be instituted early in a Labour government in order to prevent economic sabotage. This is in violation of internal market rules. The EU may put up with these when they are used as a temporary measure to prop up the financial system (such as in Cyprus), but it seems much less likely that it would if the capital controls were in the service of a socialist (or even left-social democratic) government. This problem concerns me far more than issues around freedom of movement. While I know Peter Rowlands and I disagree on the pace of nationalisation, I do think that public ownership of electricity is essential if the UK is to transition to a low carbon future, as I argued in my final ariticle on energy policy. (I’d be interested to hear Peter’s response to that article, by the way.) While the EU does not actually forbid public ownership in electricity, it requires and open, liberalised market. This would prevent the existance of a regulated monopoly and would make the role-out of nuclear power much more difficult, if not impossible. Even more concerrning, it has been indicated that the model of a state-backed nuclear industry which was used to great success in France during the 70s and 80s would be in violation of the state-aid prohibition. This means that the single market would not just be a barrier to socialism, but a barrier to sustainable development.

    I’m not saying I know what the solution is…

  4. In response to Peter and to Richard MacKinnon, labour’s position as opposed to the tactical moves he outlines accurately, is very clear. As I understand it, conference policy is as follows:

    “Unless the final settlement proves to be acceptable, then the option of retaining EU membership should be retained. The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but this seems to be Labour’s position. It will need to be updated, as parliamentary approval has been forced on May by the courts, but it is a rubber stamping operation as she will only allow a yes vote with a no vote triggering WTO rules – she will not accept further negotiation and the TOry MPs will back her – and a General Election will take place in 2020 unless she goes early, which she will only do if she has won the parliamentary vote which is a formality.

    Thus the referendum is the only option, and it can be won for EU membership-. But only if the Labour Party is capable of campaigning that it should happen, which it has so far failed to do.

    So the policy needs updating but it is clear. May has no mandate to take us out the EU using crown prerogative. As parliament has surrendered its constitutional rights to a referendum process, the only option now is a second vote.

    Conference has laid down a clear position, Let us update it to take account of the May approach to the outcome and start to operate party policy, for Referendum 2

    Trevor Fisher

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Hi Trevor,

      The exit terms which are reached at the end of the Article 50 negotiation process will be brought to Parliament for approval or not – that’s been established already.

      And, given that the Prime Minister has a Parliamentary majority, and that an issue of this importance will be seen as a confidence matter, then it’s a pretty safe bet that Parliament will endorse it.

      If the deal is unacceptable to the Opposition, then, given that this will be in 2019 – i.e. just a year before the next scheduled general election – then it will become a central issue in the election campaign.

      The campaign will be a contest between the Labour and Conservative ‘Brexit’ plans.

      What there won’t be is another referendum – we decided to leave and we’re leaving.

      1. I admit to a reluctant admiration for your desire not to accept reality, but it is misplaced. If when the parliamentary vote to accept the pig in a poke deal goes through, and you accept that it will, then the UK leaves the EU

        Nothing to argue about in the General Election, which will in any case not include Scotland.

        The only way to get what you want – which is a United Kingdom which has accepted that it is as a whole going to leave the EU is to have a referendum which you win in Scotland – best of luck with the Scots.

        however if the pig in A poke that May is preparing turns out to be a disaster, and all the indications are it will, the Tory party – and not the Labour Left – will ditch May and demand a referendum. The one thing that Tory MPs want is to stay IN parliament. A successful referendum groundswell can split a tory party whose divisions are only barely concealed.

        My nightmare is not that left Brexiteers will grasp the reality of a referendum, but that that the tory party will do so. They could still turn out to be the Anti Brexit party and ditch May. Look what they did to Anthony Eden after Suez

        in the meantime the next two years will be about getting Labour to campaign on its conference policy, which I note you do not contest is as I have quoted.

        Trevor Fisher,.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Trevor, it takes a very special type of delusion to not only think a second EU referendum is at all possible, but to describe those who remind you of reality of “not accepting reality.”

          The reality, Trevor, and PeterR as well, is that the question: “Shall the UK be a member of the EU?” has been answered for at least a generation.

          There was a referendum in 1975 and a second referendum in 2016. Perhaps there will be third referendum in 2057? If the EU is still in existence.

          But in the meantime, we are indeed leaving and now, nearly nine months after we the people made that decision, after if has been formally endorsed by Parliament, and now that the notorious “Article 50” has finally been triggered, people like Trevor, and also PeterR really do need to now accept this reality.

          We are leaving – sorry it was not the result you wanted – but please don’t waste your time, energy and political commitment on a totally lost cause.

          Leave that nonsense to the LibDems and their Blairite allies.

          By contrast, the manner in which we leave, the direction in which we go, and our future international relationships, and the future of our economy are all unanswered questions guys.

          These are the issues on which the next election will be fought and either won or lost and whatever deal our Prime Minister comes back with can be fought over at the election.

          It will be a “Brexit plan” election, so let’s get our Labour Brexit plan together and ready.

          1. Realiity will determine the next two years, and I remind you that the Labour Party is committed to a referendum if the negotiations fail, which the Tory party cannot accept. Good hunting here if Labour can get its act together.,

            And here is a historical parallel which I have made on this site before. In October 1938 Chamberlain came back from Munich proclaiming peace in our time, and the Commons backed him overwhelmingly. Read the Debate in Hansard. it is a warning from history.

            Eleven months later we were at war with Hitler. While I do not expect May to invade Bohemia and Moravia, the next period will not have sharp historical lessons, here is one for you to think about.

            You Brexiteers constantly talk about Blair and Lib Dems, who are not my favourite bedfellows – but in the late thirties Labour linked up with Churchill, the butcher of Tonypandy, some believed. You are lining up with the far right, Le Pen and Trump, and should accept that your agenda shares common ground in its fundamental demand with UKIP, the Tory hard right and the EDL.

            or is that reality too much for you to admit? There are no fascists in the anti BRexit camp.

            Trevor Fishwe

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            Trevor – What the hell has Munich in 1938 got to do with events in early twenty-first century Europe? Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing with historians … the rest of the reply is standard polemical rubbish. I’ve tried to give an analytical position and I get a posturing rant in return which is not really worth spending the time ripping to shreds – something that would be very easy to do. The analysis above stands. Deal with it.

          3. Karl Stewart says:

            Sorry Trevor, but the Labour Party is most definitely not “committed to a second EU referendum” that’s utter gibberish my friend.

            There will be no further EU referendum for at least a generation. The subject is closed.

            The Labour Party’s position is one of accepting the expressed will of the UK people, and of our elected Parliament to leave the EU and to fight to ensure the best possible ‘Brexit’ for the UK people.

            That’s the Labour position my friend. A position based on the real, concrete reality.

            Your reference to Munich and 1938 is also utter nonsense. Completely irrelevant to this discussion and has zero connection to today’s political issues whatsoever.

            And your rambling about the far-right, Le Pen and Trump is also ridiculous, and this type of nonsense only makes you seem a fool, which I’m sure you’re not.

          4. no I am not a fool as well you know. I have quoted the conference policy. I am told that it is evolving, though from what was published in Stoke Central it would be more true to say adopting UKIP clothes in a panic. And I can quote literature from the candidate if needs be.

            Either you understand that when Article 50 is triggered, as it will be, then the reality of the false promises of the Britexiteer Leave campaign will be exposed or you don’t. History has one basic lesson above all. Things never stay in one place.

            Your victory in 2016 is already history. What happens next will favour the Veto Brexit camp, not yours.

            Trevor Fisher.

          5. Tim Pendry says:

            More magical thinking … you know, it is important to understand that saying something is so does not make it to be so … there is a reason Corbyn and Starmer are trimming like mad. There is no other way forward.

    2. Tim Pendry says:

      A Second Referendum position would be the Party’s electoral suicide note … while passionate remainers might vote Labour from other parties (though I doubt that many Laberals would cross to Labour while Corbyn was Leader), there are three groups who would be put off seriously enough to make the election campaign a farce: a) the Brexit Labour voters who simply do not want it, b) Tory Remainers who will vote with their pocket book in mind (their economic and clas interests will trump their Euro-idealism, after all only Ken Clarke rebelled in the House of Commons on the day) and c) a good proportion of the population who voted Remain i) have noted that they were misled on the economic apocalypse, ii) do not want the stress and disruption in their lives of another divisive national debate and, above all, iii) they need certainty and stability for planning and fear (especially in the private sector) the effects on their livelihoods of further economic uncertainty.

      1. The reason why Starmer and Corbyn are ‘trimming like mad’ – in reality they have accepted Brexit without any attempt to get concessions – is purely tactical. driven by the current round of by elections. Though there is an argument that the Labour Rep Committee which Corbyn, but not Starmer I think belongs to, has always wanted this option.

        In Stoke Central every Labour leaflet in my possession with one exception contained the message from the candidate “I will vote to take the UK out of Europe”. Stoke was the Leave capital of the UK, with a 69% Leave vote. The one leaflet that I have which did not have the statement contained quotes from Labour supporters. Not surprisingly, as Labour is a Remain Party and has not changed its policy.

        There are currently 5 major parties in operation, the Greens currently struggling and not very visible. 4 are united on BRexit. SNP and Lib Dems opposed – and SNP seeking to conduct a referendum of their own when it suits – UKIP and Tories in favour. Labour has joined the Brexit camp, officially. Like to Tories, it is split on BRexit, but unlike the tories its splits are open and its leader ineffective and incoherent.

        The result is a terrible crisis within the party. the Times reported on 3rd March that 26000 members have left, and they are only the ones who have walked out. Those who have simply not renewed have 6 months grace, and will have left by the summer. The Labour Party is overwhelmingly Remain at grassroots level, and having a Leave policy imposed on it is having disasterous effects on its internal culture. Phil Burton Cartledge is probably right that the Corbyn moment has passed, but while Corbyn and his cohort of Brexiteers drag the party towards UKIP and the Tories, for reasons are probably more than merely about by elections, then Labour will suffer. The country will suffer from Brexit as the triggering of Article 50 will show. But for Labour, the one achievement of Corbyn in producing a welcome increase in membership is showing signs of going down the pan.

        Unless the policy of Brexit can be reversed, I do not see how Labour can retain its mass membership

        Trevor FIsher,

      2. Andy Howell says:

        We know more about Referendum voters than almost any other recent electorate, thanks to the Ashcroft exit polling.

        The majority of Labour voters did in fact vote Remain. The Leave vote was concentrated in the South East, predominantly amongst Tory voters.

        Elsewhere in the country the split causes problems in two places. Firstly, and understandably, this is a problem in marginal seats. Secondly, it strikes terror into the hearts of those seats where Labour has never had any effective opposition — hence the constant panics we now see.

        Whether you are for or against Brexit, Labour’s problem is that it is trying to play both sides and doing so very unconvincingly. Labour could _ and in my view should — push for a second referendum when the terms of Brexit are known. This would not be an anti Brexit stance per se but an pro economy one. The Brexit deal might end up being fine but there is a fair chance it won’t. IF Labour is to take a stance on this it needs to start making its arguments now.

        One of this Leadership’s great failings is the inability to strike clear and simp;y policy propositions and then campaign on them long and loud. They have let their suspicions of Campbell blind themselves to the realities of any campaign.

  5. David Ellis says:

    If Corbyn’s Labour gets embroiled in a Soft Brexit coalition with the Blairmainers, Lib Dems, Majorites, etc then it’s not just goodbye to 2020 it’s goobye to the party.

    If it is to be Labour Brexit versus Tory Brexit then Labour’s Brexit needs to be radically socialist and anti-EU. It needs to include replacing the wretched EU and its neo-liberal imperialism with a New European Settlement that favours workers by not turning them into migrating cattle in search of ever crappier wages and welfare or tethered donkey in abandoned communities, sink estates and sink schools without the education or training to compete for even the shittiest local job. A New European Settlement that ditches the EU’s imperialist relationship with Africa and the Middle East based on theft of land, resources and people for one of co-development.

    If Labour helps deliver a Soft Brexit or is seen to be helping such that Britain ends up in the ESM and with all the bills but no representation in any of its leading bodies it will be seen as the worst possible outcome. Labour will be over. At the moment they are helping May deliver a Soft Brexit when they really need to be offering an alternative Brexit. A Socialist Brexit.

  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    Some comments on comments.
    John Penney.I am annoyed at your comment, because it implies that I support the EUas it is, which is not the caseand which you should know as I have debated the issue with youseveral times. I fully accept that the EU has increasingly become a vehicle for the promotion and protection of neoliberalism, and requires fundamental reform, but I believe that to be possible, as do most of the parties of the left within the PEL, the ETUC, and some of the better parties or voices within the PES. I believee this is the only way forward, as a left Brexit government, although we may have to support it, would stand little chance againstinternational capital.
    But my article wasn’t about that.I say at the end that reforming the EU is another story. It was about how Labour responds to a difficult situation, but for you it is’slippery sophistry’,’Blair style triangulation’, ‘rhetorical ruse’,’transparently dishonest’ etc. But we are not a socialist discussion group. We are members of a political party that needs to discuss the tactics and strategy we need to make progress. But I deny that anything I am advocating is dishonest or triangulatory.
    I agree with David Pavett, who makes some of these points.
    CMac, as ever, makes well considered observations, albeit somewhat pessimistic. On his main point I agree that it would be very difficult for a left government to remain within an unreformed neoliberal EU, but I cannot believe that the circumstances that would have given rise to a left government here would not to some extent have been replicated in the EU, and that reform would therefore be on the agenda.( Yes, I have read your excellent articles on energy and will respond).
    I cover Trevor’s points, and the remaining in option is important.
    In response to Karl, the people decided to leave but can always change that decision.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Well, pessimism runs in my family. Although we all like to insist it is simply realism.

      There are two problems I have with your strategy regarding the EU. The first is that I absolutely can believe that one country could have a left government and none of the others would. There was a 25 year gap between the first social democratic provincial government in Canada and the second. More than 70 years later, we still have not had a social democratic government federally. This is in a country which (mostly) speaks the same language, has significantly more cultural uniformity than Europe, and has a far greater sense of being a united people. Even a gap of a couple of years could potentially kill a radical left government–6 months was enough for Syriza (although Greece was in a more vulnerable state than any other country). At the very least, a left-wing movement will need to plan for how it would deal with a potentially hostile EU.

      Another, less serious problem, is how we put forward demands. We could demand things which we know would violate EU directives, but in that case we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack from opposing parties who can simply point out that what we propose can not be done. Or we could tailor our demands to abide by EU directives, but in so doing massively reduce the scope for progressive action. In all probability, many such progressive demands which would be within EU directives would be enough to provoke retaliation from capital, but not enough to be able to combat it. In such a situation, I have difficulty seeing a left wing government retaining support (or avoid simply falling into neoliberal thinking) long enough to wait for left-wing success elsewhere.

  7. john P Reid says:

    I thought it as estimating, that this time last year 2/3rds of labour voters ,were voting remain, I know we weren’t on 23% in the polls a year ago ,but we were still down on the 30.5% we got in 2015,i’d guess that we’ve lost about1.5% o four voters since 2015 to ukip, 1.5% to the tories 1.5% to abstention and about 1.5% to the libdems the only one those 4 categories to a remain party

    of course the real question is how do we get back those voters who left us pre 2015 for ukip

  8. James Martin says:

    Of course in theory at least things are not at all ‘unclear’ now. Brexit is happening (good) and everyone in the Labour Party now has a chance to unite and fight for the vision we want post-Brexit Britain to be, which of course is not the same as the Tories one, but then as our vision of Briatin in the EU was never the same as theirs either that shouldn’t be any surprise, and if anything it should make some of our arguments easier now they will no longer be able to blame the EU for not nationalising the railways. In other words the politics and arguments for socialism should becomes clearer without remainers or leavers being able to use Brussels as an excuse for anything.

    But there are two main dangers right now. The first is if given the likely destruction and splits that will destroy the ukips that Labour then believes they don’t then need to worry about the concerns of the Labour areas like mine that overwhelmingly voted out of the EU. The second is that if there was a second referendum, or failing that a further vote in parliament on the final main terms and direction of travel between the UK and EU then we will split all over again.

    But quite why people like Peter Rowlands have such a love-in with the single market is beyond me, once you take out the free movement and undercutting of wages and collective organisation (which Peter seems to have conceded should go – some progress there at least), what really are you left with that is inherently socialist?

    As to the support that it was ok to try and veto Article 50 once the Labour amendments went down then you are excusing the disgraceful and childish behavior of the likes of Clive Lewis who is no better than a coup plotter himself these days for the damage he did to Corbyn by his ridiculous flounce out of the shadow cabinet (it most be the influence of Labour Friends of Apartheid Israel given he is ever so chummy with those particular coup supporter racists these days), and that is just not a defensible position at all Peter.

    1. David Pavett says:

      If you disagree with the views of a politician then criticise them. What no one should do is to argue by innuendo. I know nothing about Clive Lewis and Labour Friends of Israel except that he is not in that club. He is instead a member of Labour Friends of Palestine. The comment that he is “chummy with these particular coup supporter racists” is well beyond acceptable debate. I disagree strongly with some things that Clive Lewis has said and done and I have argued that without any need to resort to such remarks. They drag the standard of debate down and lead to drawing a picture of ones own side as the embodiment of goodness and everyone else as evil incarnate.

      1. James Martin says:

        Not innuendo David, he appeared to become more semi-detached from the left when he started supporting those racists at the same time they were witch hunting Jackie Walker, That annoying waste of space Owen Jones was the same I think. But the thing about Lewis is that when Corbyn and the left were still under daily continuous attack he abandoned his post. As an ex-army lad he knows exactly what that means, and what that now makes him.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Well said James.

          I used to be a big admirer of Clive Lewis, particularly his conference speech last year.

          But, like his guru the idiot boy Owen Jones, Clive Lewis clearly collapses under pressure and runs.

          His resignation over the Article 50 whip was pathetic and he’ll never be Labour leader.

          1. The real value of this site is the insight it provides into the thinking of the old left. On the Lewis vote, he was doing what party policy and the tactical situation demanded, vote for the amendments and if not accepted, don’t vote for May. Which Corbyn did. He didn’t even abstain.

            Manuel Cortes of TSSA explained this was what the PLP had to do, in the Guardian the day before the vote. Does Lewis taking this line make Cortes, a Corbybn supporter, into a Corbynist traitor?

            The irony is that Corbyn won the leadership by opposing abstaining on a tory bill, then led his MPs into a vote for the TOries. It is more than ironic that the mindset of this supporters is that this was good move. What price principle and consistency?

            Trevor Fisher.

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            It was not a vote ‘for the Tories’. It was a vote in line with democratic decision-making on a single existential issue. By failing to support democracy with more commitment, the Labour Party is in danger of digging a serious hole for itself in the long run … but there’s no telling some people.

          3. Karl Stewart says:

            Trevor, you’re just being silly here mate.

            Labour didn’t “vote with the Tories” at all. Don’t be ridiculous.

            It was a simple, one-line procedural Parliamentary Motion formally endorsing the EU referendum result and formally authorising the Government to carry out the instruction given to it by the people.

            Frankly, this Motion should have been processed as soon as possible after June 24th, as Jeremy Corbyn quite rightly said on the morning of June 24th.

            What Clive Lewis did was to vote to reject the mandate given to Parliament by the people. His action was profoundly undemocratic.

            I have to say that I have far more respect for someone like Kier Starmer – who, like Lewis, also represents a majority ‘remain’ voting constituency – despite his being nominally less ‘left-wing’ than Lewis.

            In short, Starmer ‘gets it’ and Lewis doesn’t ‘get it’.

            It’s really very, very simple Trevor.

            Parliament ordered a referendum to be held, the people made a decision, and Parliament formally endorsed that decision and this is now being carried out.

            As Corbyn rightly said: “The real fight starts now.”

            The real fight is to ensure that there is a ‘Labour Brexit’ rather than a ‘Tory Brexit’.

            And just to be quite clear, I didn’t call you a fool. I said your silly arguments make you seem a fool “which I’m sure you’re not.”

            I’ve read several interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking posts from you on various occaisions and you’re clearly not an idiot.

            If I can make an analogy here, I’d say that sadly, on this subject, you remind me of someone who is perhaps upset at the end of a relationship, but refuses to accept that the relationship is over.

            Despite the former partner having left almost nine months ago, and now being settled in a new relationship and moving on with their life, you (the analogous you that is) continue to hope the person will come back, despite all your friends telling you it frankly ‘ain’t gonna happen mate’.

            The sooner you, and others similarly afflicted, can get past this state of denial, the better for us all.

            Here’s hoping…

          4. karl if you understand constitutional law at all, you will know that no parliament can bind a later parliament. The setting up of a referendum process transfers the principle to the referendum. No referendum can bind a later referendum. The article 50 vote merely starts a process of negotiation, and May was forced by the courts to bring the result back to parliament, where it can be rejected by parliament.

            in fact this will not happen (a) because the Tory MPs will vote for it and (b) parliament cannot override a referendum. Thus to confirm or deny a referendum will require a second referendum.

            However May has made it clear she will defy a negative vote in parliament and trigger brexit in 2019 using crown prerogative.

            This is why the Labour Party’s official position, whatever Starmer says, is legally correct. May will seek to avoid the second referendum by using crown prerogative, which legally she can do.

            However at this becomes clear then politics kicks in. While COrbyn is generally poor in his handling of this, he did make a reference to her using Henry VIII powers and while historians have pointed out he got the detail wrong, his general point is correct.

            Its as the population start to realize the referendum of June 2016 can be overridden that the fun will start.

            Or not fun as the case may be. You do not seem to understand constitutional law, but then most political activists do not. The referendum as with any other legal process is binding at the time it is passed. It cannot be binding for ever.

            No law ever is. Only reality is binding. If May can pull a fast one and use crown prerogative to take the UK out of the EU will the battle cease. And by then, Scotland will have gone…. the Cameron referendum will have been overridden by the SNP who are rightly arguing that no referendum is ever finally binding. Only reality is.

            La Lutte Continue

            Trevor Fisher

          5. Tim Pendry says:

            Rather cruel but psychologically apposite in a non-personal but general sense about Hard Remainer obsessions … the continued commitment to a situation that has ended to all intents and purposes …

            As for Starmer, he seems to be showing his potential as natural leader one day able to bridge the two contesting wings of the Party. We’ll see.

          6. I have pointed out the constitutional law on this issue. Does Keir Starmer, though I am told he is a former Director of Public PRosecutions, actually understand the constitutional implications?

            Not from the debate on Article 50 I think. And if anyone on this site understands what Theresa May is doing, they are not showing it.

            She is using Crown PRerogative, despite the Supreme Court judgement, which she has evaded brilliantly

            So lets talk real politics not Labour politics. Tim, the first person to cite Starmer as a potential leader was Harriet Harman. Does this not worry you?

            Now Theresa May…. there is a smart cookie.

            Trevor Fisher.

          7. Tim Pendry says:

            Or rather he may be Leader of a weak centrist liberal party, called Labour, struggling to find coalition partners … and without a chunk of the popular vote that would otherwise naturally be Labour.

  9. Verity says:

    The presented argument is that Labour should align itself with a second referendum to enable people to change their minds within the two year negotiation period. This is partially based upon the wish for the least bad damage to electoral support. Unfortunately, of course, we have not the slightest understanding of the effect it, or any other decision, would have on longer – term support – even amongst those whose former position would suggest otherwise.

    The proponent’s thinking appears to be that since, I have been right all along about the impending economic catastrophe, people just need the time to come to accept what I have been arguing. The term ‘inevitable’ appears again along with the repeated economic arguments held during the referendum. Even if we were to accept the ‘inevitable economic catastrophe’ theme there is nothing obvious about it occurring within the memory of those not tiring of the debate. There is also a failure to appreciate that, as on so many other occasions, emerging complicating factors/alternatives will more likely emerge to muddy the ‘inevitability’ waters. The Tories are not complete incompetents – indeed it could be argued that they show more competence in promoting their interests than Labour does with its interests.

    Aside from Blair’s ‘rise up for the messiah’ theme, much of the discussion is based upon an elevated sense of importance in Labour’s parliamentary opposition. It has occurred to me that so so many of Labour’s supporters do not much notice what Labour says in Parliament, certainly nowhere near what its representatives and the media like to think. Of course we should try, but its nuanced case has I would suggest hardly any significance accept the attempt at a tortuous internal coherence to Social Democratic thinking. I would argue that hardly anyone gets the idea that a conditional acceptance is at variance to a referendum rejection.

    We have had some very good debates on the EU on this site and there is not anything substantially new in the discussion here. In my opinion we have much deeper problems: variously called abstentionism, tiring of the nuances in debate, outright rejection of any Labour message in the defence its electoral base. The recent by – elections have surely shown that non – voting is almost as big a problem as not voting Labour. Even the CLPD AGM debate (opposing May’s EU negotiation stance), only managed to give a 49 to 36 vote opposition – the other 65 delegates opting for coffee rather than hear the multiple conditional acceptance arguments.

    Why not just oppose withdrawal and fight as with every other battle? It has been argued again that since socialist participate in bourgeois institutions why not the EU? The response is that the EU is so dissimilar to other UK bourgeois institutions. As a feature of its constitution it does not allow the option of fundamental change. Almost all decisions are ‘ratchet decisions’ (cannot be reversed by the same democratic processes as were originally employed); they are tied into quite unusual tiered levels decision – making bodies, each with considerable constrained access to influence/modification; the EU legally provides quite alien rights to property as if they were individual people; parliaments are bound by former decisions that prohibit reversal by the same processes; parliaments become bound by other parliaments to which they have no access. The unanimity requirement of 28 quite distinct, conflicting national issues becomes subject to higher and inaccessible authorities through law. All these institutions are tied together in a web of (higher level) constitutional law that so seriously prohibits change for it to be treated as if impossible. In no other arena of English/UK law does this prospect of irreversibility exist.

  10. Tim Pendry says:

    The article is very fair assessment of the situation. It only falls down towards the end by making a series of predictions that express hope rather than reality.

    First, “there can be no favourable Brexit deal – the EU have made that perfectly clear”. The EU position is simply a first negotiating position (like May’s hard line) in a year in which there are three critical elections (French Presidential, Dutch and German). Once these are out of the way, both sides will moderate their positions. If the EU does not, it will be easy to whip up English resentment through the tabloids and via campaigning activity from UKIP which can only benefit the Government.

    Second, “mounting concern over job losses as more firms indicate they are considering quitting the UK” – actually, there is no serious evidence for this. Close analysis will tell you that many claims here are just negotiating claims (in this case of business interests seeking to influence the EU negotiations on the British side), that the announced job losses to date have been actually quite small adjustments in technical areas of financial services and that there are distinct signs of overseas corporations taking an interest in headquartering in London with compensating job increases (in effect, a reshuffle in the upper middle classes).

    The total effect is neutral from Brexit itself especially as job gains from the exit of EU nationals has now been obviated (ironically) by Labour insistence on granting full rights to EU nationals (which pleases its own existing support base but may irritate working class voters who supported Brexit) on ‘moral grounds’. Tebbit made the brutal countervailing point that non-nationals were getting priority over nationals and Labour is probably lucky that the tabloids are going for the ‘unelected’ Lords rather than the Party.

    Jobs will fall or rise not on ‘Brexit’ but on overall economic growth and expert opinion in this area that has claimed apocalyptic effects has proven wrong now for nearly nine months. Even inflationary effects – which are real – seem surprisingly muted. The UK economy is actually one of the two strongest, with Germany, within the EU. The EU fears its loss as much as some people fear the loss of the market. The global economy is in the doldrums and, though it is uncomfortable to admit it, the UK is surviving surprisingly well.

    There are arguments for and against post-Brexit economic problems and opportunities but neither case is cut-and-dried by any means. If the Trump administration does kick-start the US economy on ‘tax reforms’ and infrastructural spending (a short term Keynesian boost that may well cover the entire period of the Brexit negotiations) and the UK gets favoured nation treatment in that boom … and then techno-innovation takes over to build the UK as an offshore hub for American ‘silicon valley’ investment (which is happening already), then the plans of Remainers to return later and exploit economic collapse may be rather short of the mark.

    The Left always tends to apocalyptic gloom about capitalism but it has proven resilient, even after 2008. The issue is not its resilience but its fairness. The Brexit vote was precisely about the sense of unfairness in the distribution of resources under the prevailing liberal system that Blair and Cameron both presided over. If economic growrh feeds stomachs and issues like housing, the NHS, policing and social care can be sorted out within the next two years, then the fairness argument starts to ‘shrink’. Labour’s chance lies in the Tories being far too greedy to share future benefits and Tories rarely fail us in this respect.

    Personally, I think the core social issues cannot be resolved by a Conservative Government but, by confusing the economic question with the Brexit question, the Left is in danger of missing the point that it is particular business interests that have a strong Remain position for reasons of their own interest (largely employers of the upper middle classes in the South East and businesses importing relatively cheap labour). This interest should not be confused with a correct assessment of economic risks and opportunities.

    The war on the public sector, inner cities and distant regions (which is probably the core concern of Labour) is a product of austerity and has little to do with Brexit. Indeed, politicians like Macron are about to import Thatcherite models to the EU as the new normal (if he wins). By concentrating on Brexit (and I think Corbyn’s instincts are right on this), Labour might well confuse the public by linking one issue (fairness) with an entirely different one (democracy and sovereignty) and with the interests of a group (Remain business) which has no interest in the working population in general except as purchasing or employment cannon fodder.

    I am afraid that the final scenario is not a credible scenario at all – pigs do not fly. Once negotiations start, there wil be a tendency to ‘rally round’ and for those being hyper-critical or seeking a Second Referendum to be seen as, bluntly, not a little treacherous whereas a strategy of demanding that the Great Repeal Bill contain all the positive aspects of the EU as English, Welsh and Scottish law and so fighting against the Tory Right’s economic libertarian instincts might just win back Labour Brexiters who otherwise might simply stand aside, distrusting Labour as the creature of the Remain middle class.

    The truth is that the Tories have a majority during the two years of negotiation and are reasonably united. If May was blocked seriously (the Lords is posturing this week and the amendments change nothing material), she would hold an election and would increase her majority as Brexiters rallied round and Remainers remain divided. Tory middle class Remainers are not going to vote for Corbyn because of a Second Referendum. Labour Brexiters are going to stay at home if Labour looks like it can’t be trusted on democracy and is more interested in university emotions than street fairness.

    If there is any reasonable prospect of winning in 2020, the current policy has to be maintained and, bit by bit, Remainers weaned off their obsessions and redirected to the national fairness struggle while fairness is directed as a policy at a Brexit working class that felt it could trust Labour not to try and reverse the result once it was in power. Any hint of distrust and a lot of people will simply ‘stay at home’ and 2020 will be lost … Labour would lose any election that looked like a re-run of the vote last year and the tabloids would be happy to construct that narrative out of the naive statements of liberal enthusiasts in the PLP.

    1. Kaylee says:

      Hey, I think your site might be having browser coaittibplimy issues. When I look at your website in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

      1. Tim Pendry says:

        I assume you are noting this in regard to Left Futures and not any personal blog?

      2. Karl Stewart says:

        Thanks for that Kaylee, glad you like this site.

        It’d be great to hear your views on some of the points under discussion?

  11. Bazza says:

    There were 2 potential difficult frameworks for transforming society (and World) in a left direction (a) via the EC (b) individual nation states but still working in cooperation with international partners.
    I initially argued for (a) as I felt this was the way the public would go but (b) won and in a way to socialists it shouldn’t matter, buiding a left wing democratic socialist world should be our focus, so perhaps Brexit (but from a left perspective) is now the only game in town.
    It was interesting that according to the last New Left Review that May post-referendum was given the hard word by Obama that US and Japanese TNCs in the UK wanted continued free access to the 500m EC market (bigger than the US) but the election of Trump has perhaps given May more confidence.
    Perhaps people are niaive if they think that May is not about a Brexit that primarily serves capital.
    The free movement of labour in the EC serves primarily the free movement of capital and it is the role of the poorer EC countries to serve their own rich but primarily the rich and richer countries in the EC such as Germany, France and the UK for now.
    I again site the brilliant New Left Review for pointing out that a country like Bulgaria will have lost 50% of its population by 2020 and perhaps control of labour supply and capital supply by country is the true internationalism.
    And just think all migrant workers come investment free – the rich countries paid not a penny on their education and health to date (a subsidy of billions for capital – capital wants everything for free) and these workers (whose motives we can understand) even pay their own fares to get here!
    I think Labour’s position is just about right and our Brexit should serve labour as we expose May’s Masque of Pandora (pretending to rule for working people) when May and the Tory Brexit serves capital only and its latest Neo-Liberal interpretation but they will never explicitly say this.
    Remember May is just a bourgeois politician, she did play a bourgeois blinder as THE INVISIBLE WOMAN in the EC Referendum, whilst in theory being Remain, in practice sitting on the fence as the more simplistic bourgeois politicians Johnson and Gove fought like cats and dogs as they engaged in the campaign.
    Time for Labour to be clear for labour and to be more passionate in its language (to inspire) and to skewer the Tories on Brexit!

  12. Bazza says:

    After thought, I was initially for Remain because I felt it offered the best but still difficult opportunity too.
    But as socialists we should reflect and I can now see opportunities (although still difficult) from Brexit.

  13. David Pavett says:

    Having defended Peter above from what struck me as invalid criticism I nevertheless have some doubts about his argument.

    First, I think Labour’s position is not at all clear. It is for staying in the single market but on what terms? Any terms?

    Second, I dislike TINA arguments which always strike me as arguing by bombast. There are always alternatives. The problem is to evaluate them all fairly and objectively.

    Peter favour’s capital controls and I agree with him. He also knows that some control over population movements across borders is necessary. Together these are a massive problem for remaining in the single market and if the Labour leaders is pondering on the problem they are keeping it to themselves. Then add to that Chris M’s points about the need for public control of energy generation if we are to get serious about de carbonisation. This too violates EU single market rules.

    So where is Labour on all this? On issues which don’t impact directly on fundamentals one might reasonably use electoral considerations directly to determine their political value. With issues which impact on the guts of the stance one believes in it is a different matter. Such matters have to be dealt with up front so that handling them can be done in an open and reasoned way. Without that we are left with opaque back room deals (i.e. business as usual). Arguing for remaining in the single market cannot be a straightforward thing.

    Labour should certainly take into account the beliefs of the Brexiters but it should also be producing material to expose the fallacies which convinced so many of them. It should say that a 52% majority on a complex issue is never likely to be a reason for ending debate about it. If Labour had not taken the electorate for granted over the EU for years and years and had fought for a clear programme of EU reform with other EU left and centre-left parties, and if it had kept its own members well informed it would have been able to conduct a robust campaign against holding a referendum as opening up politics to populist manipulation rather than democratic control.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I reread Peter’s article and find myself in agreement more than I thought was the case.

      I disagree about the Parliamentary whip. I think Labour MPs should have been allowed a free vote. The upshot would have been the same and party unity would not have been displayed so flamboyantly. The the three-line whip put some Labour MPs in a position in which for goid moral and tactical reasons they had to defy it. But anyway all this is a tactical matter.

      But, on the substance of the issue, I think Peter is right when he says that triggering article 50 was inevitable and that making a show of opposing it would have been counter-productive. That did not, however, require Labour to make a show of supporting it. I agree strongly with Peter when he suggests that demanding a second referendum could become feasible if the government comes back with a deal likely to be rejected by a clear majority. That sounds to me like sensible politics and exposes the rigidity of the “the people have spoken, end of” line of thought. Had the Labour leadership adopted this approach and explained it to MPs it would have been in a better position to call for a disciplined vote. The problem is that it didn’t do that and instead looked like a Labour rabbit caught in the headlights of a badly driven Tory brexit van.

  14. Sam Kelly says:

    I love your opening remarks about the Brexit debate: “…the object is to minimise the damage to Labour and lay the basis for a future return of support.” I thought the object of the debate was to secure the best deal for British people and our friends in Europe – but keep talking to each other, guys, because the Labour Party is the most important thing in the world, isn’t it?

    1. says:

      Can we stick to the point and not waste time congratulating ourselves?

  15. I am not usually an oppositionalist, but Verity is right. There is no choice but to fight or accept. And May has made this very clear. The vote in 2 years time is take it or leave it.

    Most Labour people I know want to fight, and stay with party policy. It is fascinating that she says that at the CLPD AGM there was a debate on opposing May and the opposition to may won by 49-36. Why are 36 socialists voting to side with a reactionary tory agenda? That 65 left the debate seems very telling. The majority of socialists can’t see the point of trying to influence a settlement May and the Bruges group control. Lets simply get Labour to oppose and stay with party policy.

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      I think not … you will be fighting a war on two fronts since Left Brexiters are not going to roll in under any situation where the Party of the Left backs a neo-liberal Europe on the dubious assumption that it can be transformed from within. It can’t. It’s been fixed that way by the centrists.

  16. Peter Rowlands says:

    Some further points. To CMac’s example of Canada, all I can say is that this is against the balance of probability. James has misread what I said – I was not in favour of Lewis or anyone else voting against Article 50, but conceded that there was a better argument for doing so than if the amendments had been carried. Tim and Verity question whether a hard Brexit will result in economic downturn. They may be right, but my relatively superficial appraisal leads me to suppose that they aren’t, even allowing for Tim’s point that big business are trying to put themselves in the most favourable position,and defending their own economic interests. I believe they are not just crying wolf again – the wolf is here, and much business in the EU is rubbing its hands in anticipation. But if there is no appreciable economic decline there will probably be a hard Brexit in 2019 and a Tory win at 2020’s election. However, my scenario could lead to the ‘staying in’ solution which no-one has commented on. I agree with David that Labour’s position should be clearer, and that it favours a Norway type EEA solution.No James, I do not have a ‘love in’ with the single market,and I wish to see it and the whole EU fundamentally, transformed, but I believe that leaving it would adversely affect the economic conditions for many people and should therefore be opposed.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      I think the operative word there is ‘believe’ … but what if that belief is false? What is your strategy then? Well, you have it. You don’t need to worry about false and true beliefs about the future.

      Surely the best strategy is one flexible enough to deal with either outcome – economic decline or economic improvement and surely only the most hardened Remainer would actively want economic suffering in order to win their point?

      That would be the callous error of the old Marxists who were deluded enough to throw all their eggs into the basket of the ‘inevitable collapse of capitalism’ (we are still waiting!) and ended up excitedly hoping for the mass misery that launched Lenin into office. That is a dead end.

      From that perspective, barring the magical thinking in the last two paragraphs based on something close to faith, you have it about right in the bulk of your argument.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        The English language has many inadequacies as exemplified by the word ‘belief’, which can mean either an article of faith or a conclusion arrived at after an examination of the evidence.I was clearly using it in the latter sense.I have said that without an economic downturn a hard Brexit willbe carried in 2019.However, thanks for your generasl support.

        1. Tim Pendry says:

          Then let us not hope for an economic downturn that would hurt so many people simply to ensure the retention of a failed ideological position …

    2. C MacMackin says:

      With respect, do you have any counter-examples to suggest that it is against the balance of probability? There are plenty of examples in history of isolated progressive governments, going back at least as far as the Paris Commune. I’m not denying that there will likely be an uptick in left-wing activity elsewhere on the continent (although it may only be regional, as we’ve seen with southern Europe), but that is no guarantee there will be simultaneous left governments. In fact, as we saw with Greece, a strong left opposition in a country will likely make its government even more determined to crush a left-wing government elsewhere. I’m not saying that all of this is neccessarily insurmountable, but we can’t rely on there being a progressive EU either. We need to figure out what to do in the event that the EU does not yield to pressure. Perhaps we’ll decide that there is nothing which can be done (not my opinion, for reasons described in previous comments), but we at least need to discuss it in advance of winning government.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        The Paris Commune is not a good example, as there were similar movements in other large towns, although they all failed fairly quickly.But I take your general point.I don’t believe that a left Brexit could survive, but if a left government was elected on a programme that could not be implemented within the EU it would obviously not immediately capitulate, but it would partly depend on where we had got to with Brexit under the Tories. Would they have been voted out because their deal was unacceptable and people wanted to remain in the EU? It all becomes too hypothetical. You ask the right questions,but from where we are now I don’t think it’s possible to answer them.

    3. Karl Stewart says:

      Peter, here’s a comment on your “staying in solution”. There is no “staying in”.

      We. Are. Leaving. The. EU.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Karl, I am not proposing a ‘staying in’ solution, I support a Norway type EEA solution. Norway is not a member of the EU.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Sorry Peter, my mistake.

          Nothing undemocratic about arguing for a Norway-type arrangement. Perfectly legitimate point of view.

          Also, even if this present Government doesn’t take that option, there’s no reason in principle why Labour could not argue for such an arrangement at the next election.

        2. John Penney says:

          The UK has more control over its borders than Norway, which is part of the Schengen border-free area. As a result, Norway has higher per capita immigration than the UK. However, as a signatory to the agreement, it does have a say in how it operates.

          And PLEASE don’t claim the UK could get some sort of “different deal on Freedom of Movement”. No it couldn’t . Cameron tried that , but got a meaningless temporary “brake” in outline. Nobody was fooled.

          A Labour Party recommending a “Norway type EEA solution” , on that key issue alone, can wave goodbye to significant parts of our Labour heartlands, Peter.

          Staying in the neoliberalism governed Single Market is not “leaving the EU” in any meaningful way. Instead the UK would actually continue to pay huge amounts in, be subject to the entire EU neoliberal project strictures, but have no say on its policies ! The worst of all possible worlds.

          This ” we respect the Referendum decision – BUT actually we don’t want to actually leave the EU neoliberal project at all” position is pure definitional sophistry, and would be/will be political disaster for Labour.

        3. James Martin says:

          If you want a ‘Norway’ solution then you may as well stay in the EU given it is even worse than full membership (apart for Norwegian trawlers of course). To be in the EEA you have to accept the ‘4 freedoms’ *cough* which includes freedom of movement, so while you can save a few bob on EU net contributions you also lack any say in EU policy (such as the puppet EU parliament is allowed a say) but then effectively have to accept to what you are given by the EU. It is the reason why ‘soft Brexit’ is a rotten and disgraceful con promoted by EU remainers in an attempt to stop Brexit by the back door. Yes, I accept it is Labour Party policy (as Trevor Fisher keeps on reminding us), but like wasting billions on Trident or being part of the NATO war machine it is an utterly bankrupt and rotten non-socialist position to take and should not be promoted by anyone on the left.

          1. Theresa May has ruled out the EEA and total cessation of links with European institutions is her agenda. She is determined to offer a Hard BRexit solution to scupper UKIP and this will be the deal put to parliament and passed by Tory MPs in 2019, unless stopped. Leaving the EEA was not part of the referendum, but she has already moved beyond the referendum text.

            As the deal will be done by 2019 unless she is forced to retract, and this will mean her resigning, she has already stopped this option which will not exist at the next General Election. Those on the Left who think this is the right solution should be backing Theresa May. In fact this is what the front bench seems to be doing. And as I do keep reminding you, Labour Policy is to do the opposite.

            Trevor FIsher.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            But James, there’s a qualitative difference between the illegitimate, undemocratic, unconstitutional, and frankly delusional argument for remaining in the EU, and the perfectly legitimate, democratic argument for membership of the EEA.

            Whatever one’s view on the merits or otherwise of the EEA – and personally I’m not convinced that EEA membership is in the people’s interests, although I’m keeping an open mind on the issue – you must concede that arguing for it is a wholly valid and reasonable point of view.

            And of course there’s a difference James. Norway, for example, is not subject to EU diktat in terms of public service liberalisation. For example, Norway’s postal service remains 100 per cent publicly owned, and it retains a delivery monopoly.

            I’d like to know more, from the UK advocates of EEA membership, about whether a socialist programme of rebuilding domestic manufacturing and selective import bans – such as steel for instance – would be possible within the EEA?

          3. Theresa May has ruled out the EEA, going beyond the text of the delusional and deceitful offer made to the people in the referendum. So please live in the current political reality, She will give parliament a deal which amounts to splendid isolation probably with a Trump trade deal thrown in as a sweetener, and the Tory MPs will vote it through. We have two years to stop this.

            But if people on this site continue to talk about offers which the very devious and clever Prime MInister has already ruled out, the gap between reality and what brexiteers think is possible will grow to breaking point. And once the phony war over Article 50 passes and the real war begins, looking at what Theresa May is doing becomes unavoidable. I hope Brexiteers can cope with this. The term useful idiot, which has been used on this site and I concur, becomes unavoidable as well

            Trevor FIsher

          4. Peter Rowlands says:

            My article explains why it is the only possble position for Labour to take.

          5. peter the party has a policy which is clear, principled and has to be followed if Labour is not to hand over Remain to the SNP and the LIb Dem. There really is not alternative.

            I Have already pointed out May has vetoed the EEA position, and Labour has to respond to the Prime MInister. There will be a take it or leave it vote on her deal, with the whips on.

            Hain is quite right that we have to remain in the single market. It’s quite clear what the Front Bench line is, and we cannot keep ignoring Corbyn’s conversion to May’s Hard Brexit Policy. There is no soft Brexit on offer.

            Things are not moving fast at all. The article 50 three line whip showed Corbyn is determined to impose hard brexit on the Labour Party – its not as Paul Mason argues a by election tactic, though it was used in Stoke Central. its the same policy as Theresa May.

            I hope the soft left can accept the facts. Corbyn wants what May wants, and that policy position is at odds with Labour Policy. EEA never was an option, but if you are to argue it, argue that Labour has to reject Corbyn’s current political stance. Its not rocket science.

            When corbyn issued his three line whip, 7000 members immediately cancelled their party membership. Mostly post 2015 Corbyn supporters according to the times on Friday (3rd March). His position is unpopular with his own supporters. It won’t change anything. COrbynism is now Brexit. Unless stopped.

            Trevor Fisher

  17. John Penney says:

    Peter, and most of the “it looks awfully frightening outside the comfort zone of the EU status quo, so we better stay in” Left, display the eternal historic tragedy of social democracy in a nutshell !

    The EU is a neoliberalism enforcement vehicle for European capitalism, intent on moving the competitiveness of the EU bloc to Chinese standards over time. This will involve all the same destructions of workers rights and protections, and the destruction of the welfare state “burden” on EU business , that the Tory extreme neoliberal Brexiters wish to impose on the UK , but on a longer timescale. The point is – the end point is the same. The structures of the EU make the idea of any “fundamental reform” of its neoliberal purpose a complete pipedream.

    So in the face of an utterly ruthless, clear plan, by European capital to create this neoliberal hellhole, the response of social democracy is, as usual, to go along with the capitalist plan – because its all too risky and there may be a lot of bumps along the road as a independent state, which currently has a vicious right wing government , but could have a left wing one one eventually. And in that case, outside of the EU straightjacket a left wing government would not be so constrained in its economic programme.

    All these same arguments would undoubtedly be put forward by Peter to support the abandonment of its Left programme by a UK Left government , at the first whiff of grapeshot from the capitalist market

    The current pathetic “dominant line ” of the Labour Left, forgetting what the EU actually is, a capitalist enforcement vehicle for the Four Freedoms of capital, in favour of a laughable belief that this organisation actually PROTECTS our rights, just as they did for Greece , simply reflects the reality that most of the “Left” today, are in fact Left Liberals politically, with no belief whatsoever in the possibility of socialist advance .

    Thus , with this mindset there is NEVER a right time for radical action – because this just might be a tad risky. And so Capital continues with its grand neoliberal plan to unravel and reverse every Western state post 1945 social and economic advance , whilst European social democracy wrings its hands in despair and helps administer this, or, with the Blairite types, actually embraces neoliberalism entirely and promotes it with gusto !

  18. Karl Stewart says:

    I’ve just re-read your article and there’s no detail there about how EEA membership might impact on our ability to rebuild our manufacturing sector, with the use preferential public procurment, state ownership and selective import bans.

    Do you h of of a socour last two pars contradict

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      There is greater internal control over some things, including agriculture, fisheries and regional policy,but by and large EU rules would apply.It is, as I said, the only way of satisfying the wishes of a majority of Labour voters and members to remain within the single market while at the same time leaving the EU.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        If membership of EEA prevents us from rebuilding our manufacturing, from state ownership of key strategic industries and if EEA membership stops us from implementing preferential domestic procurement and selective import bans, then I can’t see how EEA membership brings us closer to socialism?

        Also, while you say you’re not advocating remaining within the EU, your second-last par does suggest this, where you write:

        “…without having to leave the EU at all…”

        Can you clarify what it is you mean there?

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Karl, I doubt if an independent UK can take us to socialism, but we might have to give it a go. ‘Not leaving the EU’ refers to the possibility of reversing the decision to leave which much legal opinion thinks could be done if it was within two years of the triggering of Article 50.

          1. Tim Pendry says:

            Reversing the decision requires a Tory rebellion that is not going to happen and then for the Remainer faction to win an election which is very unlikely to happen. Left Brexiters are not simply not going to vote for a Labour Party that has anything to do with revoking Article 50 – it is existential – so you can forget that even if Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP went into an electoral compact to get that through in a forced election. The key point is that the public now want certainty and stability and most don’t care that much – or rather Brexiters actually care more in terms of sheer numbers. Any party that increases uncertainty and instability, especially one that looks weak and divided, is dead in the water in such an existential struggle. The hopes and aspirations of a few desperate ideologues will make no difference except to sink the ship by holing it before it ha even started on its voyage.

        2. John Penney says:

          The issue is quite clear, Karl, the EEA (“Norway solution”) would mean this :

          “The EEA Agreement provides for the inclusion of EU legislation in all policy areas of the Single Market. This covers the four freedoms, i.e. the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital, as well as competition and state aid rules, but also the following horizontal policies: consumer protection, company law, environment, social policy, statistics. In addition, the EEA Agreement provides for cooperation in several flanking policies such as research and technological development, education, training and youth, employment, tourism, culture, civil protection, enterprise, entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises. The EEA Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Single Market for citizens and economic operators in the EEA. Through Article 6 of the EEA Agreement, the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union is also of relevance to the EEA Agreement, as the provisions of the EEA Agreement shall be interpreted in conformity with the relevant rulings of the Court given prior to the date of signature (i.e. 2 May 1992).”

          SO anyone who thinks a UK still in the EEA (Single Market) has in any way meaningfully “left” the neoliberal straightjacket of the EU is seriously wrong. There is no “Soft Brexit” option . There is only staying in – or leaving.

          For any opportunity for a future Left government to pursue a serious Left economic and social agenda the UK cannot remain in the EU or its Single Market structure. Most of the Left currently seems to have chosen to campaign for a future within the neoliberal strictures of the Four Freedoms of globalised capitalism !

        3. Tim Pendry says:

          Karl – I am afraid Remainers are like religious nuts: it is now a matter of hope and blind faith … anything, anything, to bring forward the day of salvation. I am disinclined however to show charity. Their phantasms are now disruptive, exercises in misdirection. The only virtue of this debate is that it is showing up the real internal contradiction within Labour – between liberals who took over the Party in the 1990s and socialists who lost control in the 1980s. With luck, Brexit will allow a salutary re-balancing of the Party and put liberal dominance back in its box – and liberals as just one part of the Left coalition instead of its master.

          1. Tim Pendry says:

            It has also demonstrated another truth – that left liberals are only contingently interested in democracy. Democracy is good if it comes up with a liberal result: otherwise it is disposable. And that liberal constitutionalism is designed largely to counter the will of the people in favour of minority special interests with their snouts in the trough of power. Perhaps socialists have neglected constitutional issues for far too long and allowed liberals to dictate terms.

  19. Karl Stewart says:

    …sorry, anyway, from the end of my opening par…

    Can you give details of EEA policy in this area?

  20. Peter Rowlands says:

    I should add that my article is now out of date because of developments in the House of Lords. Last Monday an amendment was moved by Peter Hain to remain within the single market, but the official Labour line was to oppose it.Why is not clear, as it is central to Labour’s policy and to keeping Remainers on board and not jumping ship to the Lib-Dems.( See the article by Martin Kettle in the Guardian last Friday Mar 3rd. He thinks Labour is moving to a hard Brexit position. )On Tuesday the Lords will move, apparently with Labour support, that a ‘meaningful’ vote is taken after the negotiations have concluded, which could include further negotiations or revoking Article 50, thus remaining in, which I refer to in my article but no one has picked up on.There is talk of Tory rebellion on this. It’s all moving very fast.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      Interesting … intentional anti-democratic treachery from part of an unelected wing of the legislature. Time to consider Lords Reform again and to question the democratic credentials of the official Labour Party and certainly of its soft Left (who are really liberals in socialist clothing) … and why Labour Remainers are obsessed with the neo-liberal Single Market beats me. I can see the Party hurtling towards ghetto status eventually – all it has going for it on this issue is an economic down turn that may not ever come. The country does not need two competing liberal parties scrabbling over the same territory.

      1. The logical thing for you to do, Tim, is the move for the abolition of the house of lords, and indeed to abolish the commons as well since May has said that if the commons votes against her she will ignore the vote and go straight to Brexit and the WTO rules. Rule by Prime Ministerial diktat, or as some as said, Henry VIII procedure. And for once, not a historical parallel I came up with.

        May I remind you that when you were one of the group which started Labour Reform in 1995 you were opposed to rule by plebiscite because it gives power to the politicians controlling the process, which was the case with the referendum. Badly designed by Cameron and the public school Tories and won by lies. If you are really a democrat, support the call for the deal to be put to a referendum. Why Brexiteers are not doing so speaks volumes about your real confidence about winning a recall vote.

        in the meanwhile, the House of Lords is our only protection against the arbitrary power of the PM, who is behaving worse than Blair ever did. He brought the Iraq

        1. I will finish this. He brought the Iraq war voluntarily to the Commons without being forced. May had to be forced to concede a cod vote on the deal by the Supreme court. The deal will however be imposed as the Prime Minister has said.

          Real democrats want to restrain the power of the executive, and that is what you wanted in 1995 as Labour was headed to control by the leader. COrbyn has jettisoned Labour policy to force it to back Brexit, yet this is not a concern for you. Since 1995 you have moved toward executive power. Try going back to democracy and backing the call for a referendum on the deal.

          Trevor Fishe

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        Tim, I am not defending something I have personally dreamed up, it is the position of the Corbyn led Labour Party, although I’m not sure of where it’s heading at the moment.
        In a party whose members and voters are both two thirds Remainers it would be clearly suicidal to go down the road you advocate, particularly when developments in the car industry and banking presage much worse to come, which is likely to reverse the stance of many current leavers.Your line would see Labour ‘hurtling towards ghetto status,’and there would be only one, quite well supported, Liberal party. Is that what you want?

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Pete, that’s only half right mate.

          It’s true that two-thirds of Labour members supported the EU, but among Labour voters this was reversed and most Labour voters were for leave.

          Also, most of the remain voters are now in favour of accepting the decision, so it’s not ’48 per cent’ it’s probably less than half of that to be honest.

          Our car industry was in far better shape before we joined the EU (EEC as was) and so was the rest of our manufacturing sector.

          It was during our years of EEC/EU membership that manufacturing declined from the major part of our economy down to the minor part it consists of today.

          And this is why, in my opinion, working-class people and Labour people were mostly in favour of leave, because outside the EU we now have the opportunity to rebuild our manufacturing industry.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            I’m sorry, Karl, but this just isn’t true. 65% of Labour voters voted Remain. (See YouGov How Britain voted)Neither has there been any substantial change in people’s opinions on Brexit (See UK Polling Report)
            It was Thatcher rather than the EU that ruined manufacturing here, and leaving the EU won’t necessarily revive it.

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            That’s still 35% who did not and you need those votes for a Labour Government since Tory Remainers are not going to cross the water when the contents of their pocket books are at stake.

            And a lot of those 65% were deluded by false claims of economic disaster, that the EU would not drift towards greater neo-liberalism and the fact that they were ‘told’ to vote Remain by propaganda from the party apparat that called people like me ‘fascists’.

            The real European Union in prospect is this one – And what Germany wants, it gets …

          3. Tim Pendry says:

            That is a key point, Karl … that many if not most Remainers now want to accept the decision and move on and are unlikely to reward any political party that insists on disrupting the economy to meet the neds of its ideologues. So that’s more than 35% who are going to be unimpressed with the persistent liberals in the Party.

        2. Tim Pendry says:

          If it is the position of the ‘Corbyn-led Labouir Party’, then it is clearly cutting its own throat … one step up from the suicide note to the lectorate is the actual suicide.

          This could all be solved if the Remainer ideologues backed off and understood that a) 35% of the Labour vote is not with them and never will be with them, b) a good proportion of the 65% have discovered that economic meltdown is only a perfervid fantasy of the elite and the ideologues and will not accept the economic disruption of more argument and c) if this carries on, a good proportion of the 35% are going to look for another home.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            Tim – I have already explained why I think there is no credible alternative to the position I support, Labour’s position, ( although there appears to be some movement towards a hard Brexit position which I think is wrong ).Labour has to keep faith with both camps which is why voting against Article 50 was wrong.Labour can come out of this well in time, but not if we adopt hard Brexit.

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            You have explained – inadequately. I have agreed that the ‘middle way’ is probably the best that could be done under the circumstances for the party but it is not an adequate long term strategy.

            Take the votes in the House of Lords. The first amendment (EU citizens) is a matter of relative indifference. Although the Government is probably technically correct in terms of negotiating position, Labour ‘values’ do suggest that EU citizens should not be treated as hostages and there is an argument that middle class expats should not expect EU citizens creating wealth in-country to be pawns in their interest. That is a fair Labour fight.

            The second amendment (Parliamentary vote) is not what it seems (an issue of Parliamentary sovereignty) but is an obvious attempt by Remainers to create sufficient uncertainty that time can be bought for a reversal of position.

            This is not necessary because the matter has been decided, the negotiation is executive, the uncertainty advantages the other side in the negotiation (which is ‘treachery’ to a great degree) and Parliament will get full scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill which is the point where resistance to the type of Brexit is best handled.

            The population, aided by the mid-market tabloids, is not stupid. It knows that a clique of radical centrists is conspiring to reverse a democratic vote. The only saving grace is that their Second Referendum was knocked out of the water.

            If and only if Labour in the Commons, using Parliamentary sovereignty as cover, supports the second amendment in the Commons, even if it loses, then many otherwise fully socialist and labour-supporting people who sincerely believe in the priority of democracy and of national sovereign power against neo-liberalism really do have to ‘consider their position’ with Labour on two grounds.

            The first ground is one of trust – by supporting the second amendment in the Lords, Labour has indicated to democrats that it cannot be trusted but by doing so in the Commons, it will demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to maintain democracy along the lines that the Chartists initiated so long ago.

            The second ground is that, even if it loses and especially if it wins, it will have indicated what it is not to be trusted on – that is, the attempted reversal of the democratic vote and, above all, the de facto attempt to reintegrate us into the neo-liberal European model in alliance with Tory business remainers and liberal democrats.

            This latter is a very serious matter that has not yet been fully understood by many activists. In effect, it sets up the condition for the splits that are now taking place across Europe in the socialist movement between socialists and liberals (on which I have written elsewhere) but where socialists are ready to associate with democracy and national sovereignty along traditionally British lines.

            The fissure will not happen over night but, with two years to prepare and many minor elections on the way, once Labour goes down the road of resistance to the 35% of its voters’ wishes (and I share the acceptance of that number) then it is a road that it cannot go back from.

            Since its economics and defence policies are not trusted by many others and university students, wobbly middle class professionals in the south and public sector workers are not sufficient base for a national majority, Brexit will have done for Labour in the long run much as the First World War did for the Liberals.

            Personally, being in a minority of a minority, I shall be studying the conduct of the Leader and the PLP with great interest. My own Party membership extends to September but decisions on the future by me and others, and then others, will start to inform themselves on that conduct in the next few weeks.

            Since the issues are existential, any emergent force, oppositional to the ignorant populism of UKIP as much as to the weasel ways of the liberal centre, is not likely simply to be a withdrawal or a a slightly disassociated component of a liberal-led Labour. It is likely to become an intellectual implacable enemy and then gather around itself others with a similar commitment to radical democracy (neo-Chartist) and to socialism.

            I tend to have a fairly good track record on predictions though things always happen more slowly than expected – but they do happen. By 2020, such a force might be only an irritant to a Labour that cannot break through and win an election.

            By 2025, it could be a mortal threat (the equivalent to the threat of UKIP to the cosy elite liberalism of the Tory Party) if Labour persists in being a pale version of a European Socialist Party seeking ‘enosis’ with a failed dream or prepared to act as a pseudo-socialist grunt provincial assistant to a European ‘socialism’ that is about as radical as Clinton’s Democrat Party.

            Each individual makes their own choices but individual choices become cumulative. The Labour Leader’s choices in the next few weeks will be important. He has made quite a few bad choices under pressure from the Party liberals in the last two years and I would expect something similar.

            But the old tribalism is slowly dying. Core values are now drivers for individual choices and this matter is existential. The Leader now takes responsibility for the direction of the official political wing of the movement and, once the die is cast, we may all go our separate ways from conradeship into open conflict.

  21. Danny Nicol says:

    The biggest confidence trick in years is Soft Brexit/EEA/the Norway option. It is in substance the same as EU membership.

    Not only does it enforce adhesion to the neoliberal “four freedoms” including the reviled unlimited labour supply, but also the prohibition on State Aids which are incompatible with the internal market (as decided by the Commission) and the liberalisation directives which entrench permanent privatisation in the fields of gas, electricity, postal services and telecommunications. The EU competition law provisions applicable to the role of the state would also apply with their full force.

    And for what it’s worth there’d be no British minister in the Council nor British MEPs in the European Parliament. Mind you, that would be irrelevant even with a Labour Left government since none of the above can be repealed outside the realms of fantasy.

    The EEA and staying in the single market is entirely incompatible with replacing the capitalist system with a democratic socialist one. It is the issue of whether we wish to effect such a transformation which really divides the comrades who leave Comments on this blog site.

  22. Karl Stewart says:

    Peter, I don’ give any credence to opinion polling.

    According to opinion polls, the ‘remain’ side had a 10 per cent majority, so the opinion polls have zero credibility.

    I’m saying that, according to the actual concrete evidence of how people actually voted in the referendum, two-thirds of Labour voters voted to leave. It’s fact, based on actual vots, rather than speculation based on highly suspect opiion polling.

    Yes, the majority of Labour members voted remain, that’s undisuted.

    But the facts are that two-thrids of Labour voters voted leave.

    Manufacturing was indeed destroyed by Thatcher – and here again, you’re half right. But it was destroyed by Thatcher because she agreed with Germany that the UK would be the EU’s financial hub and that Germany would be its manufacturing power.

    This was part of Thatcher’s programme for the EU single market, of which she was the primary architect.

    You’re also right that our leaving the EU does not guarantee the revival of our manufacturing sector, but our leaving the EU does provide us with that opportunity.

    It’s up to us to fight to ensure this opportunity is taken.

    This is why it’s so important that the left develps a serious and robust alternative economic strategy.

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      Karl, you assert that there is ‘actual, concrete evidence’ that ‘two thirds of Labour voters voted to leave.’ Can you please tell me where this evidence may be found.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Yes, I too would like to see the evidence for that claim which contradicts all the information that I have come across. Mere assertion will not do in such matters.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          It was the result of the referendum in the various localities guys.

          In the majority of Labour-held localities, the leave vote was higher than the remain vote.

          This is solid evidence taken from actual votes cast.

          With respect, I think you guys are getting confused between Labour members – who, indeed did support the remain side by a two-thirds majority – with Labour voters, the majority of whom, according to the results, the actual votes cast and counted, voted for leave.

          I’m aware there are claims that this was not the case, but these claims are based on opinion polling samples, not on actual votes cast.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            Karl, it is true that in 70% of Labour held seats the Leave vote was higher than Remain, although even this does not necessarily mean that what you say is true, although it probably would be for seats with a high proportion of Labour and Leave votes.But these Labour held seats are only just above a third of all seats, with a substantial Labour vote in many seats not held by Labour, where the Labour Remain vote was stronger.

          2. David Pavett says:

            Karl, No, I don’t think we are confusing Labour voters with Labour members. Your “evidence” is in no way solid, as a little arithmetic soon shows. The Labour vote in Labour constituencies is often below a 50% share. In addition the vote is often split many ways. This leaves open many ways in which majority Brexit votes could be consistent with the majority of Labour voters voting for Remain.

            If we consider Stoke Central for example then we see that in the last general election the votes were

            Labour – 12,220 (39.3%)
            UKIP – 7,041 (22.7%)
            Conservative – 7,008 (22.5%)
            Independent – 2,120 (6.8%)
            Liberal Democrat – 1,296 (4.2%)
            Green – 1,123 (3.6%)
            CISTA – 244 (0.8%)
            The Ubuntu Party – 32 (0.1%)

            The YouGov Survey (made after the event and not a prediction) reckoned that the leave vote was as follows

            Con – 61%
            Lab – 35%
            LD – 32%
            UKIP – 95%
            Green – 20%

            (Other surveys found broadly the same.)

            If you apply these figure to the Stoke Central 2015 vote then you get a majority for Brexit of 51%. If you assume that 50% of the voters for the smaller parties (not included in the YouGov survey) voted for Brexit you get 55%. So you assumption that Brexit majorities in Labour seats prove that the majority of Labour voter voted for Brexit won’t stand a lot of investigation. It is true that in the case of Stoke Central the majority was actually 65% and that they must have come from somewhere. They almost certainly came from the other main parties and it is easy to see how that could have been achieved with the majority of Labour voters voting for remain. Add to that that the percentage of Labour voters voting for remain no doubt varied from one place to another. My guess, for example, would be that in London it was much higher than YouGov’s 65%. So I think that your “solid” evidence is not solid at all.

          3. David Pavett says:


            If you apply the above data for Brexit/Remain preferences to the voting figures for the 2015 general election and assume that a third of SNP voters voted for Brexit (as widely reported) and assume that of the remaining 3.7% of votes for smaller parties about half voted for Brexit then guess what?

            You get an overall figure of 52.63% for Brexit.

            Note that this is remarkably close to the actual vote and is reached on the basis that 65% of Labour voters voted Remain.

  23. Karl Stewart says:

    The BBC has data here broken down into electoral wards:

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      …and almost all the electoral wards they highlight as particularly high leave-voting wards are also Labour-held wards.

      If the majority of Labour-held wards voted leave, then it’s a reasonable indication that the majority of Labour voters voted leave.

      Of course the reverse could, theoretically be true, but stop and think for a moment what it is you’re actually suggesting David and Peter.

      Your theory is that, in Labour-held wards, every non-Labour voter voted for ‘leave’. While in non Labour-held wards, these non-Labour voters all backed ‘remain’.

      This completely contradictory voting behaviour is theoretically and statistically possible, but come on guys, it isn’t a very likely scenario is it?

      Far more likely is that, in general, the way a ward votes in normal elections was also generally reflected in the referendum vote too.

      And that the fact that a majority of Labour voting wards went for ‘leave’ indicates that a majority of Labour voters voted ‘leave’.

      1. David Pavett says:

        “Your theory is that, in Labour-held wards, every non-Labour voter voted for ‘leave’. While in non Labour-held wards, these non-Labour voters all backed ‘remain’. ”

        No. See my previous comment on this.

        1. JKarl Stewart says:

          I think most Labour voters voted ‘leave’ in the referendum – and that the evidence is in the ward-by-ward breakdown.

          The majority of Labour-held wards had ‘leave’ majorities, which is the clincher for me.

        2. Karl Stewart says:

          I think that more Labour voters voted ‘leave’ than ‘remain’ in the EU referendum – and that the evidence is in the ward-by-ward breakdown.

          The majority of Labour-held wards returned ‘leave’ majorities, which is the clincher for me.

          1. David Pavett says:

            (1) You appear to have ward-by-ward information for the whole country. Can you say where you got that.

            (2) Even if what you say is true it does not warrant your conclusion as I have shown a couple of times. You do not have a ‘clincher’ argument.

  24. Karl Stewart says:

    David, it’s in the BBC link I posted above.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      There is no way we can know with absolute certainty the statistical relationship between party affiliation and referendum vote.

      The only way to have been able to determine that with certainty would have been to ask voters to express their party affiliation on the same ballot paper as their ‘leave’/’remain’ preference.

      So this leaves us with the options of opinion polling, or detailed statistical analysis of voting patterns.

      What puzzles me is why you think opinion polling is more reliable than analysis of actual voting?

      1. David Pavett says:

        “What puzzles me is why you think opinion polling is more reliable than analysis of actual voting?”

        I don’t. My point was the opposite. I think that people can report more reliably on how they voted than on their voting intentions which can and do fluctuate.

    2. David Pavett says:

      The material in the link you provided. It was based on a sample of one in nine wards. It doesn’t provide a ward analysis on the basis of political parties, the word “Labour” doesn’t even occur. I checked a couple of the name wards with high brexit votes and they were not Labour. I can see no basis for your claims in the BBC piece. And, as I have explained, even if it were true that the majority of Labour wards voted for Brexit this would not justify you doubts about the majority of Labour voters supporting remain. Your argument just doesn’t stack up.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Fair point about the overall unsatisfactoryness (not sure if that’s a word, but it sould be!) of the article.

        There are wards picked out and mentioned for all manner of reasons, not just because’ they votes ‘leave’, but my point was that the ‘leave’ wards were majority Labour.

        You’re right that the article (maddeningly) doesn’t address the crucial question for us. But this can be extrapolated form ward-by-ward data.

  25. Peter Rowlands says:

    Karl, you would only have a point if the vote in strongly held traditional working class Labour seats was replicated proportionally for the Labour vote in all seats, whether Labour held or not. But all the evidence is that it wasn’t with a far higher Remain vote in big metropolitan areas and university towns.The working class vote was for Leave, but that vote is a minority of the overall Labour vote.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      I’d be surprised if the working-class vote was a minority of the overall Labour vote.

      If that’s the case, then we’re in trouble…

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        It depends on how you define working class, but the traditional manual labour working class is a minority of the Labour vote.

  26. Robin Edwards says:

    Dear friends. I intend to stand against Owen Smith in the 2020 general election or sooner if the general election is called sooner. The reason? The New Labour and coup plotting Labour MPs cannot be trusted to form a Corby-led government even if the numbers were available and they won’t be in any case because nobody is going to vote for these New Labour saboteurs ever again. Labour could be down to 30 or 40 MPs in 2020 with only left MPs with increased majorities still standing proving what a wasted opportunity Corbyn’s rise to leadership will have been. No, I will stand against Smith on the basis that should the numbers be there I would not stand in the way of the formation of a Corbyn-led government and would actively support the formation of said. I would of course be standing on my own programme of course as an indepenent socialists.

    I will out Brexit UKIP: I will demand the end to negotiations with the wretched EU, immediate withdrawal from the EU and that a New European Settlement be sought with allies of our cause that is based not on the neo-liberal values of the EU but on socialist values that do not turn workers into migrating cattle chasing each others’ tails across the continent in search of ever crappier wages and welfare or abandon them in sink schools and sink estates without the possibility of competing for even the lowliest local job.

    I will out Welsh nationalism Plaid Cymru: I will stand for the replacement of the Westminster Union by a Federation of Sovereign Nations including an English Parliament to be based in the Midlands.

    I will out socialist the Labour Party: I will stand on a programme of a regime of full-employment by which all those who cannot find their own job are bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work with each paid the minimum of a trades union living wage; the end of the bank bailout and austerity. The bankrupt banks must be allowed to go bankrupt and their staff, estates and deposits bought into public administration and used to form national banks with a monopoly of credit lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan; the repeal of all anti-trades union legislation; the socialisation of the property and mega profits of the giant corporation and super rich and the replacement of fat cat executives imposed by the Old School Tie Network and political patronage with leaders and managers elected by the workforce and answerable to them, the consumer and the government.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      If you’ve never stood for election before and if you’re completely independent with no party organisation behind you, then standing for Parliament will almost certainly result in you losing your £500 deposit.

      Far better, if this is your first time, to stand in a council election first. There’s no deposit to pay and you’ll only have to leaflet one ward.

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