Opposing Brexit will lose us some votes, but gain us many more


This is urgent. Labour must embrace staying in the single market and the customs union or face haemorrhaging members and taking a battering at the polls.

That message is coming through both from members and supporters. We are stuck at 40 per cent in the polls because of the failure to take a position on Europe which many of the 48 per cent are willing us to do.  And, I suspect, some of the 52 per cent, too.

I spent the whole of January knocking on Labour members’ doors and there was one issue that was their clear concern. ‘I am worried about the leadership not standing up to the Tories over Brexit’, ‘I am thinking of leaving the party because Labour is not opposing Brexit’ and ‘Why isn’t Jeremy standing up to the Tories on Brexit’ were three typical responses. Brexit crowded out all the other issues, whether it was housing, crime on the streets or even austerity. Brexit was the cause they want Labour to rally around.

OK, you might say, but this was a central London seat and therefore untypical. What about all those seats in the North? Of course there are more Labour supporters in the north who voted for Brexit. I only found one on the doorstep during my campaigning!

However, even in Leave constituencies, it is highly likely that most Labour members and even most voters realise that exiting the European Union will solve none of the problems that influence their vote in the Referendum. The evidence is coming through daily about the damage that Brexit will cause, damage that will affect disproportionately those who are most likely to vote Labour.

Ultimately, voters in the North, as elsewhere, will not thank us for having stood by while their jobs disappear and their incomes fall. They will not vote for a party that deserted them when they needed it most.

At last June’s election, muddling through on Brexit was the right strategy. We were forced to face both ways as the Referendum had taken place just a year previously and there was so much uncertainty about the effects of leaving the EU.

This is no longer the case. Theresa May lost that election as people did not want her vision of a hard Brexit. The result was a clear message which Labour now has to take on board.

Part of the role of politicians is, of course, to reflect the views of the electorate. But at times politicians have to lead and be brave, taking a difficult issue full on in trying to people to their cause. This is precisely such a time.

Of course there is some scepticism about the EU. Several senior figures in the Shadow Cabinet have never wholeheartedly accepted its value. However, with the increasing evidence of the complexity of departure and of the damage that will be caused to many industries, remaining in the single market and customs union is clearly preferable to any alternative. The rock is preferable to the hard place. Moreover, if we leave the EU, we will have no influence over it, and yet we will be affected by its decisions.

It is time for the leadership to listen to the members and to embrace the EU. We need speeches on why the EU is important and on its achievements. The fact that we have had peace in Europe for 70 years and the EU has become a huge economic power base would be a start.






  • Winnie C

    Never voted Labour before but entire family will if they oppose Brexit. Simple as that.

  • Alan Brown

    Agree that Labour must put a stop to Brexit which is not in the nations’ interest. We need to be within EU to change it for the benefit of all citizens as was the original idea and not allow to become a union of states. Being outside gives no voice in nor control on the EU or international affairs. The EU does not prevent any of the issues raised in the Labour Manifesto and as the banking fiasco showed does not prevent state aid. The WTO rules also has state aid rules. We need every penny we can earn to put in place a socially just economy. Being a member of the Union helps and does not hinder us in that respect. Moreover the EU is not just about trade, it is about joint research, education, freedom to travel and learn and experience other cultures human rights and workers rights.It should be about a united block against the rising world threats from the hard right the new world elite .Citizens in other European countries realise that solidarity is better than isolation. The EU is very far from perfect as is our democracy but it is better than any alternative although we must continue to improve both. If labour continue to prevaricate they will bleed support and open the door to the hard right . Do we want to remain in the past as the Tories do or do we want to be a forward looking internationalist.country freed from Xenophobia. Labour must demonstrate that it is such a party and stopping Brexit would be a good marker to put down

  • Keith

    For years politicians (of all parties) hid behind the EU and said things like “we’d love to help but EU rules prevent it…”. Rail franchising was just one example. What the exact rules were was never made clear, for political reasons which suited both sides.

    That is the craziest situation to then offer a binary referendum to “resolve” the issue. How was that ever going to work? Some kind of compromise associate membership arrangement needs to be found, so that both sides can claim victory.

  • Alan Brown

    May’s red marker pen leaves little room for manoeuvre. However Barnier today said an ambitious trade deal and a customs union was still possible. I fear May is in the hands of the hard right who want out whatever the cost.be it no flights traffic jams at customs no nuclear products for medicines and scans.Break up of peace in northern Ireland and that’s without considering Gibraltar The list is almost endless. People were not asked about any of this. Difficult to see how proper consent was given

  • Paul Holt

    In http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2014/04/what-is-the-point-of-hs2/, I asked CW to revisit EU Directive 96/48, which mandates HS2. Had he done so, the penny would drop that Parliament could neither consider it (or any other directive), nor debate it, nor amend it, nor stop it.

  • Mark

    All too true I’m afraid. If Labour doesn’t show a bit of leadership on the Single Market (much more important than CU), it will just fade away. With such a hopeless govt it should be 15-20% ahead now.

    And it’s no good saying “respect the referendum etc”. This was just an advisory vote carried out on the basis of a totally false prospectus.

    Sadly the latest Corbyn speech at the Scottish conference gives no encouragement. All we are getting is a series of silly point scoring exercises rather than a coherent policy.

  • FrancisKing