“Lexit is not a myth” – Labour Leave’s response to Open Britain report

Brendan Chilton

Last month Open Britain (OB) published “Busting the Lexit Myths to show that there really is no left-wing case for Brexit and that Jeremy Corbyn would face no EU limitations on implementing his favoured policies. They go on to argue that Labour really must back remaining in the single market – something Remain described during the elections repeatedly as “the worst of all worlds”.

Many points are raised in the report and it’s worth reading. But in terms of showing the Leave case to be mythical and successfully debunking it, the texts generally fall into one of the following categories:

  1. The goalposts are artfully moved, so that while the EU may indeed prohibit A, it does not prohibit B, and B is perfectly fine according to Open Britain.
  2. Sleights of hand; by ignoring fundamental points entirely, you can give the appearance of myth-busting.
  3. OB confirm the “myth” to be not, in fact, a myth at all, it’s just not a big deal – to them.
  4. A reasonable argument is made but the point in question is simply not, and never was, a fundamental part of the Lexit argument.

It is a substantial paper and Labour Leave has written a lengthy response to the document. These are complex issues and there are too many of them for brevity, but in short:

  • Rail cannot be fully renationalised, but we can have state owned entities competing in a commercial market. OB think that is fine. The government does indeed have very little scope to remove EU nationals under free movement but free movement is a good thing anyway, so according to OB it doesn’t matter.
  • The EU has not enforced austerity on the UK, it has just decimated southern Europe – so no problem for OB there. The EU is more green than Westminster – OB are correct, but it’s peripheral to the Lexit argument. The transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) was really a demonstration of the EU’s virtue, according to OB, because it was killed off at the eleventh hour (readers can probably guess our response here). And the NHS will probably be privatised in a deal with Trump anyway – speculation is all well and good but doesn’t constitute myth-busting.
  • EU workers’ rights have not been overstated, OB claim, before explaining that “in many areas, current standards of UK rights are higher than the EU requirements”. This was categorically not the impression given to voters by Remain throughout the campaign, where they, quite understandably, sought to convince voters that without the EU we’d be stripped of our most basic employment rights and turned into an island sweatshop.
  • Finally, on trade deals, OB say the EU are excellent at striking them – a bit of a stretch, as even many Remainers concede and the figures bear out. On the long term economic forecasting, the public may not be quite as believing as they were in June 2016 because Remain’s emphatic and apocalyptic forecasts have failed to materialise. 18 months on and the economy is still growing.

If Lexit was indeed a myth, it would be fairly easy to demonstrate it and we have included at the start of our response paper a short list of what is required. The OB paper does not come anywhere close. Indeed, on the most central element of the Lexit argument, the EU’s democratic deficit, it says nothing at all. But it does contain much that is worth reading and bearing in mind, even if it’s a long way off being a ‘myth buster’.

Brendan Chilton is director of Labour Future and general secretary of Labour Leave. 
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