Saturday 23 January 2021

Brexitwatch: stop treating pro-EU voters as unpeople - my reply to Labour

On 17 January, I posted Labour's reply to my emails asking Sir Keir Starmer to keep his promise and vote against Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Here's my response:

Dear Sir Keir,

I was disappointed when my emails urging you to oppose Boris Johnson's catastrophic Brexit 'deal' were responded to by someone identified just as 'Lee from the Labour Party'. Is this taking a leaf out of the Tory playbook, where comments come from an anonymous 'Downing Street source'?

It is such a completely unsatisfactory response that I do not have time to respond to all its inadequacies, so here are a few:

1. The 'old divides of Remain and Leave' are not 'over'. It is true, of course, that there are no more 'Remainers'. We have been dragged out of the EU against our will, so we cannot 'remain'. But the division between pro and anti-EU voters in the UK is at least as deep as ever. All polling suggests that pro-EU people are in the majority, and among Labour voters, they probably outnumber anti-EU by around 3 to 1. In spite of that, Labour has decided to ignore pro-EU people because it seems to believe the only way to election victory is by winning anti-EU votes in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats.

I can tell you that we who are pro-EU are sick and tired of being treated by Labour as though we are unpopular relatives, who unfortunately have to be invited to the party because you want our votes, but who are expected to sit in a corner trying to make ourselves invisible and under strict instructions to shut up.

2. If Labour had voted against Johnson's deal as I urged, it would still have passed comfortably, so the 'it was the only way of avoiding no deal' excuse won't wash.

3. Every day new Brexit disasters appear: fishermen who can't sell their fish, hauliers who bypass the UK, companies who give up exporting, consumers facing huge price rises, etc. If Labour wants, it can go around saying: 'nothing to do with us, guv, even though we voted for it. It's all that Boris Johnson's fault.' We'll see whether the voters buy that line.

4. As you voted for the 'deal', Lee's comments about how useless it is are irrelevant.

5. Lee says: 'Labour are focussed entirely on making this the best country to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.' This is the kind of vacuous drivel I expect from the Tories. You don't make a country better by making it worse - by making its people poorer, by stripping them, their children and their grandchildren of their rights, by making their country weaker and more divided.

Labour's performance on Brexit has been shameful. Half-hearted on opposing it in the referendum campaign, voting to trigger Article 50 when the government had no credible plan, turning a blind eye to the cheating, lying, gerrymandering and possible foreign interference that won the vote for Leave, etc., and now treating pro-EU voters as unpeople. Labour may want us all to go away, and let you have a quiet life in which no one ever says a bad word about Brexit. But we're not going anywhere.

Lee says Johnson's deal is no good, so let's see Labour fighting to tear down the barriers it has put up. Where's the campaign to rejoin Erasmus, to restore freedom of movement for musicians, artists, technicians, and what about the many others in less glamorous jobs who would like to go on working in Europe, where's the demand to get mutual recognition of professional qualifications? Why hasn't Labour set up a forum with business to find out what are the barriers stopping them trading with Europe, and working with them to get them removed?

Yours sincerely,

John Withington

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