Wednesday 26 July 2017

Fudge isn't leadership - it's just a snack

This article in Monday’s Guardian by Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner has drawn a great deal of criticism for saying, in essence, that Brexit is going to make us all worse off, but that’s what people voted for and that’s what we must therefore do.  As far as the conclusions that he draws are concerned, I agree with the criticism.  It should be incredible that the main opposition party can conclude that a policy is a really bad idea and then go on to support it with enthusiasm.  He’s not alone in taking this strange view of leadership by politicians – one of his colleagues said much the same thing yesterday, but went on to add that the Labour Party’s position could be flexible if public opinion were to change.  It’s a complete abdication of leadership and principle, and suggests that, at any time, the Labour Party’s political philosophy is whatever a perceived majority happen to think.
There are parts of Gardiner’s analysis, however, with which I entirely agree.  His opening paragraph:
“Most trade agreements arise from a desire to liberalise trade – making it easier to sell goods and services into one another’s markets.  Brexit will not.  Brexit arose from key political, rather than trade, objectives: to have control over our borders, to have sovereignty over our laws, not to submit to the European court of justice (ECJ), and not to pay money into the European budget.  When negotiations start it will be the first time countries seek a trade agreement with the clear understanding that they are increasing barriers between them.”
reflects a point that this blog has made a number of times: there is no such thing as a ‘soft’ Brexit, there is only continued membership under a different name. 
(Although I don’t entirely agree with his claim that both sides are entering the negotiations with the understanding that they are increasing barriers between them; I suspect that the Brexiteers really don’t understand that even now.  That’s one of the worst aspects of their position – and it’s largely mirrored by that of the Labour Party when they talk about having “the exact same benefits” whilst being outside the single market.)
I agree with his statement that Brexit arose primarily from political rather than trade objectives, and that the only way to give expression to those political objectives is to opt for the so-called ‘hard’ Brexit being pursued by the government.  That ignores, of course, the frequent statements made by Brexiteers during the referendum campaign that Brexit did not mean leaving the single market, but that was politicians campaigning, a process in which lying has become the norm.  It should always have been clear that, if the slogans about taking back control meant anything, they meant leaving the single market, whatever politicians looking for votes may have said at the time.
Gardiner is simply being honest in what he says.  A Welsh Labour MP, Wayne David, made a similar point yesterday, when he said that it would be very difficult to accept membership of the single market as being compatible with Brexit.  Whilst many of us see the so-called ‘Norway Model’ as more attractive than Brexit, I fully understand that it actually means a greater loss of sovereignty than formal membership of the EU, since it requires adherence to laws and rules with no representation in devising them. 
The real problem facing us is not people like Gardiner or David who are openly and honestly spelling out the consequences of the vote that was taken last year, but the fudging politicians who pretend that it is somehow possible to give expression to that vote whilst remaining a member of the EU in all but name.  It isn’t, and the better and more honest position is to argue that a mistake has been made on the basis of an utterly false prospectus and give people the opportunity to correct it.  The idea that democracy is – or ever can be – about a single irrevocable vote on one day in one set of circumstances is a misuse of the word ‘democracy’.  We need politicians to provide honest leadership on the issue, but they mostly seem too cowardly to do that.

No comments: