We are now into October, and the threat of a no deal Brexit at the end of the month looms despite the fact that parliament has passed a law to stop it. The truth is that neither our democracy nor the economy are safe as long as Boris Johnson’s government remains in power. But those partly responsible for the political paralysis we find ourselves in, and the continued imminent threat of a no deal Brexit, include those who say they oppose Brexit most of all: the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
Right now, there is probably a majority in parliament to oust this government and get a caretaker administration in place to do two things – one, negotiate a responsible version of Brexit, and two, conduct a referendum that offers the people the choice between that responsible deal and remaining in the European Union. Following such a referendum, we will need a general election to determine the future direction our country will take.
While there is probably a majority in parliament to do this, it is meaningless unless there is a willingness to form a caretaker government. Only a caretaker government can negotiate with the EU and get us a public vote. But the Liberal Democrats have cooled on the idea, despite the cost being keeping the government in the hands of Boris Johnson and the threat of a no deal Brexit alive.
Everywhere I go in Newcastle, people are just plain worn out by the Brexit debate and are frustrated our country cannot move forward to tackle the other burning issues. Having spent three years trying to implement Brexit, in the process learning so much about the mechanics of our relationship with the EU and the hard right intent of the elite Brexiteers and their pals, I have come to the conclusion that any Brexit would harm Newcastle, the North East and our country to an unacceptable extent. I would therefore vote and campaign for Remain even if the alternative is a more responsible form of Brexit. But I strongly agree with so many of my fellow Geordies who want to resolve this once and for all.
We have critical work to do as a country. We must implement a comprehensive industrial strategy that is integrated with Labour’s bold plan to address the climate emergency. We must strengthen the NHS. We must rebuild our local and regional governments after the catastrophe of Tory-Lib Dem austerity – our schools, our mental health services, and so much more.
But the reality is that while the Liberal Democrats oppose Brexit and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Labour in opposing Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation, they don’t really have an agenda for the country other than fighting Brexit. They have put all their electoral eggs into that one basket.
For this reason, there is an argument that suggests the Lib Dems want to keep the Brexit stalemate going to aid their electoral prospects, and are happy to leave the state in the irresponsible hands of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings rather than do the right thing: working with Labour to send Johnson packing and allow the people to resolve the Brexit crisis.
A Scottish Lib Dem MP has even ludicrously and openly suggested that he would prefer a no deal Brexit to having a short-term, temporary Corbyn-led caretaker administration! I think decent people across the country will be baffled by this approach. The SNP are describing the Liberal Democrats as the road block to removing Boris Johnson as PM.
I hope my friends in the Liberal Democrats (as well as the other parties) decide to work with us in a grown-up manner to resolve Brexit and make sure there is no way for the Tories to force a no deal scenario. As the official leader of the opposition, only Jeremy Corbyn at the head of a caretaker government can end this Brexit crisis, and with the clock ticking it is about time the rest of Westminster caught up with this reality.
Love Socialism is a group of 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 @LoveSocialism.