To win an election Corbyn must attack May for her capitulation to EU leaders

Dan McCurry

Labour has become the human shield for Theresa May’s failures on Brexit. Every time she messes up, or capitulates to the EU, Labour faces more questions over its stance. Our fence-sitting is far more damaging to our prospects and credibility than the leadership care to admit.

There is nothing more tedious than a politician beginning an answer with a disclaimer which culminates with the word “but…”. So lines like “We accept the result of the referendum but…” tend to antagonise both sides.

It would be far better to point out that Theresa May doesn’t respect the result of the referendum judging, by the deal she did to please Dublin and the DUP.

That deal keeps us in the single market and customs union in all but name. Every time a new rule comes out of Brussels we have to copy it then ask the EU to inspect and permit it. That’s not what people were promised with “take back control”. We used to make the rules with our EU partners. Now we make copies of their rules in order to pretend we are no longer under a fictional oppressor. It’s quite surreal.

Meanwhile Labour shies away from attacking May for her capitulation. Maybe Labour does not want to make a song and dance because they can see Brexit is failing and they don’t want to provoke the Brexiteers to rebel against it. Or maybe Labour just can’t see what will happen next. It’s difficult to tell these days. But as a result of this lack of opposition her deal has been reported as a success, as if the EU blinked first. It is unbelievable.

So as a result May is being portrayed as strong and stable while ever resentment builds Labour, as seen in the polls, where our lead has been all-but wiped out. This is an astonishing position for an opposition to be in.

Following May’s Ireland capitulation there is only one direction of travel for negotiations, which is the Norway model. Having agreed to an expensive divorce we will soon agree to make ongoing payments in return for access to markets but we won’t have a vote on the regulations that will apply to our own economy.

The big difference between Norway and Britain is that they have a relatively simple economy, based on natural resources, while we have a large diverse economy with 40 per cent of exports being services. Being a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker will be far more detrimental to us than to Norway.

Theresa May is responsible for all this but Labour is getting equal amounts of blame, if not more. The difference is that May gets sympathy for the tough job she has tried and failed at, while Labour generates frustration for never having tried in the first place, and for just sitting on the fence. The applause that May received from EU leaders was probably out of pity. No one is applauding Jeremy Corbyn – it’s as if he doesn’t exist on this issue.

Labour should change tack and tell the British people that they were lied to by the Tory Brexiteers. They were lied to by David Cameron when he offered them a choice but fully expected them to vote remain in order to stabilise his leadership. They were lied to then and are still being lied to now.

May pretends that things are progressing when she is taking the country backwards. She has been forced to buckle to every EU demand not because they are better negotiators but because the Brexiteers demands are undeliverable. The promises of the referendum have not been fulfilled and will not be fulfilled because they cannot be fulfilled.

If Labour were to start making this argument then they would gain respect for speaking the truth. We don’t have to tell the electorate that we respect the referendum result because the referendum offer has turned out to be bogus.

Corbyn did well at the last general election because of the votes of Tories who switched out of protest at Brexit and young people who came out in droves. It’s unlikely that those voters will come out in the same numbers again, raising the question of how we will win if we don’t make a clear and coherent stand on this matter.

I see no other strategy for Labour to win the next election. Waiting for the Tories to fail will cost us more than it will cost them. People don’t vote for woolly politicians. They vote for politicians who have a clear idea of where they will take the country. Time to make that stand.

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