Following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (often dubbed ‘Brexit’ – short for British Exit) on 23rd June 2016, 172 Labour MPs voted no confidence in party leader Jeremy Corbyn, triggering the second leadership contest in a twelve month period. The candidate challenging Corbyn is Owen Smith – MP for Pontypridd and former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Despite the democratic decision the electorate made to leave the EU, Smith has suggested including a pledge to remain in Labour’s next general election manifesto and holding a second referendum on the matter.
Owen Smith isn’t the only left-wing politician desperate to ignore the referendum, either. The Liberal Democrats have promised to fight the next election on a pro-EU slate and the Green Party’s lone MP Caroline Lucas has called for a second referendum on our membership of the 28-member bloc.
These pledges cause me a great deal of concern as the local authorities with the highest support for leaving the EU include countless Labour heartlands including Ed Miliband’s Doncaster, Dennis Skinner’s Bolsover, and ironically, Owen Smith’s Rhondda Cynon Taf. Most people in these areas still still support the Labour Party, but I fear our popularity would wither if we promised to block Brexit. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) already poses a considerable threat, placing second behind Labour in many constituencies at the 2015 general election, including my home of Doncaster North. Owen Smith is on record as saying his pro-EU fight is worth losing votes to UKIP, but I strongly disagree. In order to survive, we need to put maximum effort into keeping traditional Labour supporters away from the right-wing.
I can sympathise with those who feel Brexit is a mistake, but the public voted for it, and we need to respect their wishes. Remain supporters need to stop being so gloomy, accept the result and demand a say in negotiations in order to achieve a positive future for British workers outside of the European Union!
A common complaint is that the most prominent Vote Leave campaigners were right-wingers such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, stirring up an anti-immigration sentiment. In reality, there was plenty of support for a leave vote on the left, and immigration was discussed very little by those in the Labour Leave and Trade Unionists Against EU campaigns. Three trade unions backed Leave – ASLEF, BFAWU and RMT. Two of the most prominent Brexit campaigners were Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart. Dennis Skinner provided the Morning Star with a detailed explanation of why he regards the EU as a force for bad. George Galloway made multiple speeches for the Grassroots Out campaign and featured alongside other trade unionists and socialists in Lexit: The Movie. There was definitely a strong, passionate, socialist case for leaving. It’s simply not in the interest of the press to give the left a voice.
It is a shame the government chose Vote Leave as the official Brexit campaign as it consisted mostly of Tories and UKIP members, but they most certainly don’t speak for all Leave voters.
Feel free to question whether leaving the EU is the right decision, but making a second referendum party policy would undoubtedly be disastrous unless more than half of the public appeared to support it, and current polling suggests there is minimal appetite for ignoring the result.