Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

No blank cheque on Brexit

The supreme court’s article 50 ruling has changed very little – Labour must do all it can to stop a hard Brexit, writes Ivana Bartoletti

There are no surprises in the supreme court ruling. And that is a good sign. Britain is a parliamentary democracy and parliament must be consulted before triggering article 50.

For months we have heard one mantra – Brexit means Brexit. Then, last week, the prime minister announced her plans. To me, those plans were exactly what I was fearing. A utopian version of a Britain able to navigate the global world by itself. Utopian unless, as equity boss Guy Hands candidly said yesterday, we turn Britain in a warehouse, cutting wages by 30 per cent and changing our economic model to engage in a race to the bottom of pay and working conditions in the hope that, by doing so, we can compete with China.

Let us be frank. It will not be easy outside the single market. It simply will not. I applaud the government for getting on with its industrial strategy. But that will not be enough for us to make it alone. Students are being trained for jobs that may no longer exist in 50 years time, as technology and artificial technology are reshaping work as we know it. Our biggest economic issue for this century may well be what we do for those without a job; and hopefully by then we will have overcome ideology and considered introducing some form of universal basic income.

These are the challenges we face. How we overcome them is what politics needs to face up to. Losing the single market and cooperation with other European countries will not help. Actually, it will make the challenges we face even harder to overcome – perhaps, even, too big for us to face alone.

Why am I saying all this? Because the European Union referendum was won by the Leavers by a very narrow margin. I will avoid stating the obvious regarding the lies the Leave campaign was based on. What I will say, though, is that the reasons behind Brexit were very diverse – and they certainly do not give the prime minister a mandate for the hard Brexit she is determined to pursue.

Now it is time for action. We can make amendments to the bill which will trigger article 50. By no means should Labour allow it to be a one clause bill. We must force the government to agree to parliament having a final vote on the Brexit deal. The conditions set by Keir Starmer – as well as the points made by Matthew Pennycook yesterday – are good and worth fighting for.

I would add that those that think Britain is better off in the EU should be not be compelled to commit our country to what they believe is economic suicide, should May not amend her plans.

In a sense, the ruling yesterday does not change much. I understand that Labour is divided on this, and those MPs in Remain-voting constituencies have been thrown into a huge dilemma. My feeling, however, is that we will not win voters by betraying the best interests of generations of Britons to come. The left is in a huge crisis across the developed world – and it has not been caused by Brexit. May the fight for our future be the start of renewal, for as hard as that might sound now.

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Ivana Bartoletti is chair of Fabian Women’s Network. She tweets @IvanaBartoletti

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Ivana Bartoletti

is chair of Fabian Women's Network and candidate for Havering and Redbridge in the London assembly election

1 comment

  • ‘The people’ are fighting against an imposed World Order – the EU is one brick in the wall of that world order, and normal democracy has to bring that wall down.

    We want REAL democracy!

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