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General election 2017: Why Labour needs to campaign for a soft Brexit

General election 2017: Why Labour needs to campaign for a soft Brexit

On the 18th April Prime Minister Theresa May spoke in front of 10 Downing Street to call for a snap general election on the 8th June. The Prime Minister won a vote by 522 to 13 to override the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and thus, the dice was thrown. As the political parties scramble to find candidates to fight constituency battles across the country, May looks comfortable and assertive stating that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for strong and stable leadership. “Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger for when I negotiate for Britain with the European Union,” the Prime Minister said in her pre-election statement.

Jeremy Corbyn was spurred into battle with his first campaign speech where he framed a vote for Labour as a vote against the establishment. “I don’t play by the establishments rules,” Corbyn stated. It was possibly the most energetic that we have ever seen him, and his followers in the crowd loved it. “Theresa May will insist that this is an election is about Brexit. It is only Labour who will focus on what kind of country we want to have after Brexit,” he claimed.

Acting like this election is about anything other than Brexit though is a mistake. Just under 52% of the British public voted to leave the EU, Brexit is happening whether anyone likes it or not. The national, and global, repercussions of Brexit cannot be understated, and it is right that it should dominate the forthcoming election. Labour needs to recognize this fact to provide some kind of contest in the upcoming election.

Theresa May’s, “Brexit means Brexit,” hardline stance is not the only option. There is a pro-EU ‘soft Brexit’ option that none of the mainstream parties have fully addressed. With the Lib-Dems still unsure about whether to accept the result or call for a second referendum, and Labour barely mentioning the subject, who is championing the causes of the 48% who voted to stay in the EU, and indeed the large proportion of people who voted for Brexit thinking that it wouldn’t ever happen? Additionally, who is Theresa May to claim that everyone who voted Leave wanted every scrap of EU policy, sentiment and our relationship with Europe to be banished like an infectious plague? There should be a second way, and, strangely, Corbyn could be best placed to lead it. He is known to be somewhat skeptical of the EU, and this was evident throughout the referendum campaign. When asked what he would rate the EU out of ten, he meekly gave a 7 and gave some vague positives, and that was pretty much the entirety of his contribution to the Remain campaign.

The character profile, that Corbyn only fights for causes he believes in, is widely accepted. So surely someone who is skeptical of the EU and an advocate for human rights, and an advocate for worker’s rights, and advocate for climate change, and an advocate for reducing inequality and an advocate for sensible defence is the best man to re-negotiate our relationship with the EU? Surely Corbyn can support leaving the EU and being signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights so that British citizens still have entrenched rights to liberty, privacy and freedom from discrimination? Surely Corbyn can support leaving the EU and maintaining worker rights like equal pay, maternity leave and maximum working hours? Surely Corbyn can support leaving the EU and keeping Britain pledged to the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP)? Surely Corbyn can support leaving the EU and still contributing to the EU Development Aid Program (which reduces the inequality between countries by focusing targeted development funding to nations that need it most)? Surely Corbyn can support leaving the EU and maintain being signed up to the European Arrest Warrant and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) that ensures stability and security throughout Europe, a continent which, whether Brexit advocates like it or not, we are a part of?

If Britain still contributes to these aspects of the EU, which are both in the national interest and reflect British values, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that Britain will be rewarded with the favourable access to the Single Market that Theresa May has currently been trying to gain through intimidation. Unlike our European counterparts, us Brits have always driven on the left and, throughout our recent history, always had left wing solutions to big issues in mind. There is an alternative to ‘doomsday Brexit’, there is a better path. With Labour recently ruling out a second referendum and being nearly twenty points behind the Tories, advocating for a ‘soft Brexit’ is the only electable path that they have left.

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