Mike Buckley: Labour’s future depends on opposing Tories on Brexit

"Brexit is a flawed project. It won’t make anyone’s life better, reduce inequality, create jobs, build houses or pay for new trains. It will fail. "

None of us wanted to end up here. Over the last four years we have fought hard to prevent Brexit, not only because it will harm our economy and our country, but also because it challenges our Labour values and our belief in cooperation, solidarity and internationalism.

We got close to a second referendum. Had MPs made different choices last autumn we could by now have been in the middle of a referendum campaign. I am convinced that we could have won that, and a subsequent General Election.

But the reality is  now very different. Brexit is upon us and the Tories are in power with a big majority – and at least four years to further damage our country. They are already attacking the BBC – an attack on free and objective media we would expect from far right governments in Hungary and Poland, or from authoritarian regimes like Russia, but not from supposedly mature democracies like the UK.

They have made life harder for refugees, refusing to allow child refugees to reunite with their families in the UK. They are making life harder for migrants, ending free movement and putting in place measures to make life harder. They are making life harder for people who own or work in businesses – with reams of new red tape and procedures to follow just to continue to make a living. They are making life close to impossible for our manufacturing sector, promising to leave the Single Market and Customs Union – for many manufacturers the only reason that their businesses make economic sense. Job losses and closures are almost certain to follow. They will make life harder for workers – as they refuse to sign up to keep rights and protections in place once the transition period is over.

In Labour we now have a choice. We can let the Tories get away with it , decide that Brexit has happened and we should move on. But this lets the Tories off the hook – lives will be harmed and we will have failed the people who put their trust in us. Alternatively we can continue to hold the Tories to account. They have promised to make a success of Brexit and the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership. We need to highlight every lost business, every falling standard in food or safety, every lost citizens’ right, job and opportunity. The public deserve to know what Brexit means for our country, our jobs and the NHS.

At Labour for a Public Vote we still believe that Britain’s best future is in the EU under a Labour Government. The time now is not for a rejoin campaign, but to hold the Tories to account. We will keep track of what the Tories are doing, what deals they’re negotiating and how they are damaging our democracy, and our open and tolerant society.

Labour getting Brexit right from now on is important to the country. We must keep up the pressure on the Tories to help make Brexit as least damaging as it can be – and to undo it as quickly as possible. It is also important for Labour. The vast majority of our voters are Remainers – they want us to fight this battle. If we fail them they will leave us for the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens.

If you haven’t yet, please join us as a member. In coming weeks we will relaunch with a new name, but the same mission: to help get Labour into power, to end Brexit, and to build the best future for all who live and make their home in the UK. You can join as a member here.

In what is a hard time for all of us, we must not despair. The Tories look powerful now – but the future is ours to make. Brexit is a flawed project. It won’t make anyone’s life better, reduce inequality, create jobs, build houses or pay for new trains. It will fail.

Labour needs to be ready with an alternative, better vision, not just for our relationship with the EU, but for how our economy is run, who it benefits, and where power is held. Working with our members, the new Labour leader and our MPs, and with our friends on the Left across the EU, we can build that vision and a better future. The future is ours to make.

Mike Buckley is the director of Labour for a Public Vote

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