The referendum result was close. Let’s not pretend otherwise. This was not an out-and-out rejection of our European future. It was simply a case of a lot of people being misled by a campaign that played heavily on immigration, and which strayed from the truth about a number of other important issues.
Now we are looking at a Brexit which is going to hit hard the most vulnerable in our society. It is going to hit hard plenty of people who had never even thought they would be vulnerable. Already we see multinational corporations lining up to reduce their stakes in the United Kingdom, if not to leave completely.
Let’s be clear, the Brexiteers are not interested in our sovereignty and workers’ rights. All they want is a free market where the money men can make their brass, unfettered by regulations, and the rest of us be damned.
Yet this is not what the public voted for. About half of us voted to stay in the European Union with all its failings. Of the other half, only a small amount voted to leave the EU because they actually wanted to leave the EU. Other issues were at play; all of us who campaigned know that because we spoke to voters on the doorstep. Immigration was a big one, but it is also one that will not be fixed by leaving the EU. Brexiteers in the immediate aftermath of the vote made this clear. That is one where the Leave campaign sold us a dud.
Others wanted to give Cameron a kicking. I can empathise with that, and they did so too. Many treated the vote as a way of expressing their frustration with six years of economic stagnation.
None of these reasons amount to a justification for catapulting the UK into economic meltdown with all the devastated lives that will result. The future of our children is at stake. Their rights to good jobs and international relationships. Their rights to explore neighbouring countries and study abroad cheaply and easily. I would be the first to admit that the EU is far from perfect, but these are things worth fighting for. They affect Labour voters and Labour constituencies as much as any.
And what are Labour politicians doing about it? Too many seem to be meekly surrendering to the perceived ‘inevitable’, at just the point at which they need to be campaigning hard on this most critical of issues.
Please, please come out and start fighting! Your country needs you now more than it has ever done before. This issue is not lost. The campaign was a disaster but there is still appetite for a fight. Those of us who are still out here are doing our best but we need some political big hitters to cover our backs. We need our politician friends to come out fighting for what we know to be their beliefs.
What we cannot do as a party, especially those of us on the modernising wing, is retreat into a dark place to mourn what could have been while taking our eye off what is. If we abandon this fight, future generations will never forgive us.
I do believe Labour should have a red line on Brexit and it should be this: a 52-48 vote, based on the most abysmal of campaigns, is not sufficient mandate for a catastrophic abandonment of our prosperous future. As a party we should not be arguing for soft Brexit rather than hard Brexit, we should be arguing for no Brexit. And we should be doing it loudly, publicly and consistently. After all, there is little point to the Labour party if it is not fighting for people’s jobs and futures.
Christabel Edwards is a Labour party activist. She tweets @Christabel321
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