Opposing Brexit might be the best strategy for Labour in 2018. Here’s why

The party grassroots and Labour voters are anti-Brexit. It's this which must guide the leadership.

2018 is a vital year in the Brexit battle, and there are great opportunities for Labour to pick apart May’s Brexit. But the party needs to turn its Brexit fudge into clarity. The voters need it, members need it and the country needs it too.

In the coming year, the government will have to negotiate transition before it knows its Brexit destination — and it will have to find a solution to the frankly impossible conundrum of separating Northern Ireland from Ireland without harming peace and economic stability.

May will no longer be able to pretend that she can have a pick’n’mix Brexit, and will have to take on one side of her Cabinet by opting for hard or soft Brexit.

The Prime Minister will rack up quite a few miles offering perks and deals to different EU partners, but it will be those battles closer to home that could really unravel the government, and Labour should be maximising them.

Labour can win the Brexit debate – but the party too has its own choices to make. While the government struggles to decide between two extreme forms of Brexit, Labour has a golden opportunity to look at all options, especially given shifting public opinion for the UK.

At Best for Britain we are fighting for all options to be on the table, including No Brexit, when the meaningful vote comes around.

There are three main reasons why Labour should shift its policy to include a No Brexit option.

1. This is likely to reflect what the Labour Party Membership want.

Many polls and surveys have consistently put staying in the EU well above 70% amongst the Labour Party membership.

This will help the leadership get the clarity they need. The party need to look at creating new forums and networks, harnessing new technology to allow members to get messages through – loudly and clearly.

If the Party leadership believe in bottom up democracy, it has never been more vital to listen than on this issue.

2. Hardening the position will help Labour at the ballot box.

Research done by Best for Britain shows that many voters may have picked Labour as the anti-Brexit vehicle in 2017.

These voters are likely to have lent Labour their vote but not made a long-term commitments to the party (yet).

The real electoral battle ground is for the new floating vote: people that support staying in the EU, many of whom flocked to whichever party was most likely to beat the Conservatives- because of Brexit.

This suggests that by appealing to voters that wanted to stay in the EU, Labour will likely be able to maintain and extend their gains made in 2017​.

According to Ipsos Mori, Labour has the votes of 54% of remain voters to hold onto in the next election. Meanwhile the Tories have 26% of remain voters still to lose.

3. To attract new voters as well as keep the ones Labour gained, all options need to be on the table.

I and my colleagues at Best for Britain have been campaigning to win a meaningful vote on Brexit with all options on the table, including staying in the European Union.

This is not the position of an ideological campaign: it’s about what’s best for Britain – providing a safety net the country is crying out for.

With David Davis now in post despite lying to Parliament, Liam Fox in charge of trade talks despite countless examples of incompetence, and with Theresa May barely hanging on to leadership of the Tory party, the country needs a real set of alternatives to those being presented by the government.

It’s time for Labour to develop these alternatives. Labour should focus on a jobs-first new deal with the EU, whether inside or outside.

It should focus on deep discussions as to how its agenda might be implemented within EU rules, and seek support for what would be the micro-targeting of investment in the most deprived areas of the UK.

All of Labour’s stated objectives in the manifesto can be delivered within the context of EU Membership. The economic fallout of leaving the EU would most likely shatter that programme.

Labour is the only party that can offer what the majority of people who think that Brexit is a mistake actually need and want: leadership that reflects this view and a safe, steady path to serious consideration of the no Brexit option.

The local elections in May will be a particular test as to where the votes of those that wanted to stay in the EU will go- Labour should consolidate its position before then.

2018 could be the year where we can show the electoral dividend of this position. And if Labour doesn’t shift, other pro-European forces may pop up and take away the vital proportion of voters that got Labour over the line in many marginal seats.

Eloise Todd is CEO of Best for Britain. She tweets here.

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17 Responses to “Opposing Brexit might be the best strategy for Labour in 2018. Here’s why”

  1. LordBlagger

    Here’s a bit of advice.

    Going round calling your core voters scum, racist, bigots, stupid, thick, cretins, suggesting they should be killed, …., isn’t a vote winner.

    The pro remain faction within Labour have screwed Labour’s chances of being elected.

  2. LordBlagger

    On communications, for a Communications director you aren’t listening. Have you not got the message?

    The public have told you clearly that you are wrong. They want out.

    Perhaps you should take up PR for fascism. It would be more in line with your anti democratic agenda.

  3. Lynn Alderson

    Thank you for this clear analysis. You’ve hit the nail in the head ie not only is Remain best for the country but it’s Labour’s best electoral strategy too. I really hope the leadership is listening, because the foot soldiers are already there.

  4. Ian Hurdley

    What is not properly grasped is that Brexit is not a thing; it is a brand. The drivers of the Leave Campaign understand this and are playing it to great effect. Remainers, by accepting the name, shoot themselves in the foot. They deflect attention away from the reality of what lies behind the brand.
    Why do some people buy Fairy detergent whilst others choose Persil? You won’t find the answer by comparing the chemical composition of the two. It’s all about the mood created for the brand. In the same way you could ask why some people would by a Peugeot Partner but others prefer a Citroen Berlingo, even though both come from the same company and share the same parts.

    Those who wish to remain in the EU must force the argument onto the ‘product’ and avoid like the plague any mention of the brand.

  5. ID508216

    I am an ardent remainer and think Brexit is an example of collective lunacy. Unfortunately your nationwide polling data tells us nothing about Brexit’s electoral geography and the real dangers of Brexit for Labour.

    Take Barnsley as an exemplar. Heart of the south Yorkshire coalfield, rock solid Labour mining community. In the referendum 84,000 voted leave 39,000 voted remain. There are 2 constituencies in Barnsley, in the last election both were held by Labour. In Barnsley Central the Labour vote went up 8.2%, the Tory vote went up 9.1%, UKIP fell 13.2%. Barnsley East Labour vote went up 4.8% Tory vote went up 12.4%, UKIP fell 15.5%. If Labour comes out solidly for the softest of soft Brexit and the Tories hold to a hard Brexit then it does not take a genius to see that the residual UKIP vote, and the ardent leavers who shifted from UKIP to Labour will almost certainly vote Tory. There are literally dozens and dozens and dozens of seats in the North east and Midlands who follow this pattern. The only optimistic scenario is, and this is of course distinctly possible, that the Tories are forced to go for a very soft Brexit themselves. One can but hope.

  6. Dave Boorman.

    I have voted labour in every election since 1960 and am a strong supporter of the current labour anti austerity policies and moves to get rid of the pernicious inequalities which continue to pervade the UK. Everything I read reinforces my view that leaving the EU will impoverish the country economically, socially and politically. There is ample evidence that leaving will not only significantly damage the country but will also make Labour ambitions impossible to achieve. Thus for the first time I am in a huge quandary in supporting the party because it is not fighting to remain in the EU and rejecting Brexit.

  7. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    Good points being made above. There are very solid reasons for leaving the EU which are recognised by many top economists and not just Patrick Mindford. The 1% is dominating the debate and this is overshadowing the Brexit question. The EU is as Austerity and Neoliberal as the Tory Govt. but we treat them very differently for no clear reason other than “internationalism” Labour needs to maintain its open position until it is clearer as to what the future holds, supporting neither remain nor leave, but respecting the dilemma.

  8. Jim Kerrigan

    Brexit is not and should not be the MAIN issue. The main objective should be to rid ourselves of neo-liberlaism. Brexit is a Tory diversion tactic as they are unable to do anything else. Yanis Varoufakis outlined in his book about the poor putting up with what they must, a series of reforms to the EU and EURO. But he didn’t convince on the reform process or timetable. If you want to remain in the EU you should accept that it needs to chamge. If you are a remainer you need to have a project to reform and some timetable. What is the reform process and how long
    will that take? So far I haven’t seen that.

  9. Carol Fraser

    I am delighted to note that Labour grassroots is speaking out. Frances O’Grady is seriously concerned for workers’ rights and is correct. The article is spot-on. Ignore above Lordblagger who is running scared and Minford is a discredited economist.

  10. Howard Holt

    Having only ever voted Labour once, in 2017 in response to May’s “No Deal is better than a Bad Deal” I for one will only consider Labour again IF they stand up and be counted against Brexit, or they at very least seek to maintain the UK’s position in the EEA.
    If there is no election prior to the transition period, and we do end up adrift of both the EU and EEA, then I expect Labour to make it’s policy to return to the EEA as a minimum, including FoM, or to return fully to the EU.
    Otherwise a centre party will emerge and grab our votes and do just that when they see the chaos and destruction that a hard Brexit creates.
    There’s no point in Labour just being the Tories in a different shirt, and Labour need the votes on middle-class Britain to get into power without the help of the SNP and Libdems – who will want a return to the EU anyway.

  11. Will

    The EU is no more inherently neo liberal than government from Westminster. The European Parliament must at some point supersede the Council of Ministers as the decision making body, then the EU will be more Democratic and accountable than the UK government.
    Even now the EU offers more protection to workers,, the environment, health and safety than the UK government.

    The real danger to Labour voters living standards will come if we lose frictionless access to the single market and suffer a Brexit recession with lost jobs, companies relocating and shortfalls in government revenue threatening Labours program.

  12. Chris

    Labour are second in my constituency to the Tories, I voted Lib Dem last time, but I would switch to Labour if they oppose Brexit, otherwise, the Lib Dems will still have my vote, even though they are in third place.

  13. Robert

    This is the only way out of this mess. A Labour Party supporting remaining in the EU – after a second referendum – would sweep the board. Look at what even Heseltine is saying. Membership of the EU is not incompatible with sort of programme the present leadership of putting forward, which, for continental Europe, is quite moderate. A labour-led UK could transform the EU, if it could also undertake major constitutional reform at home. This is the opportunity of a lifetime to have a reforming labour government, let’s not throw it away.

  14. Cloud Cuckoo

    Labour’s ‘core voter’ is no longer Alf Garnett – who voted Tory as well as being a classic UKIP flagwaving type. It was the Tony Booth character who was the Labour core voter then, and is now, though he would probably be the grandson.
    So Labour would not be giving up on core voters. It would be gaining new ones, while not wasting energy trying to persuade the ones that have drifted far right as they have got older to stay.

  15. ID508216

    why is my comment still awaiting moderation?

  16. Terry

    Parliament said it would respect the Referendum result.

    Labour declared it would respect the peoples decision.

    Only political leaders lacking integrity wish to nullify democracy.

    It won’t wash.

    Apart from the fact that Labour’s leader won’t be fooled into a disastrous anti-Brexit stance, were Labour to volte-face, it would be royally crucified by the wrath of the many on an unheard of scale, and justifiably so, as an unprincipled, neoliberal kowtowing party for the few.

    Labour marches forward with a real alternative to austerity and privatisation, making the best of Brexit, and must not be distracted by the toxicity of the LibDems, Tony Blair and others who fail to understand why forgotten communities voted as they did, and how these same communities will be let down if we don’t get on with winning the General Election, whenever it comes.

    PS I voted remain.

  17. Alasdair Macdonald

    Robert and Cloud Cuckoo,

    I agree with much of what you aspire to with regard to Labour. However, at present Labour is pretty fractured, despite the gains at the GE and has no coherent policy with regard to Brexit and is adopting a wait-and-see-how-the-wind-is-blowing approach in the hope that the Tories explode and Labour comes to Government by default. And, it is then that the fissures within Labour will burst open because Government actually means taking decisions.

    I think that constitutional reform has to be a centrepiece of any reforming government, which wants to bring about irreversible paradigm shift which entails a genuine redistribution of power and wealth. (Personally, I think dissolution of the Union, with independence for Scotland, reunification of Ireland and for England and Wales to make up their own minds).

    I agree with you, Cloud Cuckoo, in that there are strong grounds for optimism in the awakening of political consciousness and involvement by the young. Labour has always been conservative and patriotic – jingoistic English nationalist, and fervently royalist, often – and its electorate and supporters have always been susceptible to union-jack waving. It has, also, had many who saw through all of this and had genuinely socialist-redistributive-republican paradigm and, that was the Labour Party for which I voted often and invested hopes. However, in the 1990s I realised that ‘new’ Labour was largely Thatcherism rebranded and had as an aim, the destruction of ‘hope’, that socialism/republicanism entailed. Many of the young who are coming into politics do not have that historical colonialist baggage. They are better-educated, they have access to a wider range of information sources and have the in-built bullshit detection, they are creative, they see the depredations that Thatcherism is inflicting, they see Gordon Brown for the risible and ridiculous dinosaur that he is. However, the positions of power within many CLPs are held by such cliques of dinosaurs who have set up standing orders in such a way as to make change difficult.
    Where I disagree, Robert is in your hope of Labour bringing about change in Europe. Its history of opposition and lukewarmness towards Europe and the obvious coolness of Mr Corbyn towards it, gives it low status amongst Europeans. The fiasco of the ineptitude and xenophobia of the current Government and media towards Europe certainly ensures that for generations, Europeans will be very wary of ‘THE BRITS’. Undoubtedly, Europe needs change as we saw in its treatment of Greece, but, the change will come from the countries on the mainland and a reunited Ireland.

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