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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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