Labour vs the Lib Dems: Who has the right position on Brexit?

As Article 50 looms, two left-wing positions have emerged


Have a read of the following analysis of Labour’s position on Brexit, from a senior figure in British politics:

“Labour has got to build out from the remain vote and reach out to those that are persuadable in the Leave camp.

It would be a fundamental strategic error to end up trying to go to the Leave camp, and then trying to build out across the other way.

Then you will end up not persuading the Leave people, and alienating the Remain people.”

This has the ring of plausibility about it, with the last sentence borne out by recent polling and byelection results, along with the qualitative evidence of just talking to people.

Adopting positions designed to win over Leave voters does not appear to be working, while Labour’s acquience over Brexit – whipping MPs to back the Brexit Bill, not fighting for amendments, etc. – has angered many Remainers, some of whom are turning to the Liberal Democrats.

At their Spring conference over the weekend, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron hammered this point home, continuing his defiant pitch for disgruntled Labour and Tory voters with a robust pro-EU and anti-hard Brexit message.

It’s not a hard message to express, and has at least a 16 million strong market. Here’s Farron speaking at a rally on Saturday:

One of the many things that wasn’t on the ballot paper last year – but which apparently we now need to just accept without question – is that if you narrowly lost, you had to just shut up, dump your principles and become an accomplice to the new nationalism.  

Now, Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer clearly did get that memo!  But I’m afraid I didn’t!

The emperor is wearing no clothes and I will keep on saying so.

When did you last hear anyone from Labour talk like that? It’s staking out a clear alternative position to the government, and with a different constituency in mind.

And it’s what many Remainers, along with Leavers who don’t want to lose the single market or kick out EU nationals, are longing to hear from an opposition party.

What we’re seeing then is an experiment play out with two centre-left parties, both of which campaigned to keep Britain in the European Union, heading down the two routes outlined in the first quote above. Neither path is very pallatable, and both involve a leap of faith.

But the logic of the opening quote’s deliniation is hard to escape, even if it was said by Tony Blair.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: Heseltine sacking shows Theresa May has zero tolerance for dissenters on Brexit

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