Nothing says ‘taking back control’ and clawing back sovereignty like suspending a democratically elected parliament to stop it getting in the way of an unelected Prime Minister. If this were mooted in any other part of the world, we would rightly condemn it as a descent into authoritarianism.
But proroguing parliament is an idea that has been seriously floated by candidates standing to be the next Tory leader and PM. Like frontrunner Boris Johnson, the proponents of this idea are determined to deliver a hard Brexit whatever it takes, and potentially a no deal Brexit.
Such a course of action is not just a threat to democracy. It would be an all-out assault on our living standards, wipe out thousands of jobs, put peace in Northern Ireland at risk and push Britain into whatever race-to-the-bottom trade deal Donald Trump and his friends want to cook up. With a leaked cabinet note stating that it would take six to eight months to stockpile medicine supplies in the event of a no deal scenario, it’s sheer recklessness for anyone to defend it as an option that should remain on the table.
Wednesday’s opposition day motion, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn with cross-party support, was meant to be a step towards preventing no deal. The result of the vote, with eight of our own Labour MPs shamefully voting it down, is disappointing to say the least. But this is far from the end of our fight. Labour will continue to do all we can to stop Britain from crashing out of the EU, a scenario that would devastate the working-class communities we represent.
However, we need to face the stark reality of the situation here. Unless another outcome is agreed, the UK is set to leave the EU by default on 31 October, whether or not we are ready. In March, Labour led the successful efforts to avoid leaving without a deal by securing an extension. It is unclear whether the EU would grant us one again given that parliament is no closer to finding a way forward – and even if it does, the deadline cannot be pushed forward forever. This extended period of limbo is causing debilitating uncertainty, not least for the millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and is already losing jobs.
Whoever ends up occupying Number 10 this summer will be faced with the same impossible task that ended the ‘leadership’ of Theresa May, no matter how much they big up their negotiating skills or how much they talk about Britain’s greatness. As their predecessor once famously said, and as the EU will be quick to remind them: “nothing has changed!”.
With the Tories tearing themselves apart, no general election in sight and parliament once again failing to provide a clear route to safety, it is increasingly clear that the only way out of the impasse is putting the EU question back to the people. In such a referendum, Labour could have an inspiring message. We could promise to end the mess that is sucking up all of our political energy, and instead direct our efforts towards transforming Britain.
Instead of arguing over deals and customs unions for years and years to come (no, that won’t end when we leave), we could talk about the real solutions we need to bring the country together: a Green New Deal that ends austerity, tackles inequality, invests in left-behind communities, renewables and sustainability, providing decent public services, jobs and housing for all. All the while combating some of the underlying causes of far-right nationalism that fuels Brexit.
We could show Brexit for what it always has been: a hard-right Tory project spearheaded by millionaires to deregulate the economy, attack our rights and blame foreigners for the problems that arise when we have weak unions, privatisation and devastating austerity. There is no time to waste. To avoid the disaster of a Tory hard Brexit, we must throw our energy into fighting for a public vote.
Love Socialism Hate Brexit is a group of radical and socialist Labour MPs fighting to stop Brexit. We will be writing a column for LabourList every week until the Brexit crisis is over. You can find out more about us here, and follow us on Twitter here.