Britain has been in limbo for the last three months while the Conservatives dumped Theresa May and have now elected Boris Johnson. He was picked by 160 000 Tory party members, rather than elected by 46 million voters who should properly choose our UK Prime Minister.
Johnson is gambling everything on taking Britain out of the EU on 31 October.
Despite his past record, we must for now take him at his word. He says:
- He wants Britain to leave with a deal
- He’ll force a no-deal Brexit, if he doesn’t get a fresh deal agreed by the EU and by the UK Parliament.
There’s zero hope that he’ll get a better deal to protect jobs, rights and standards, as I and the Labour Party have argued for since the Referendum; and there’s little sign that the EU will drop the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ which is the obsession for Tory hardliners.
A ‘crash-out’ Brexit on 31 October – with no agreement in place on vital arrangements like border checks, customs tariffs, security, intelligence sharing, immigration, healthcare, banking or agriculture – must now be Britain’s ‘assumption’, as Michael Gove has confirmed.
In recent days I’ve discussed the ‘disastrous risk’ of a no-deal Brexit with local farmers and local steel bosses – from day one farmers face an 84% price hike on beef, 37% on chicken and 48% on butter to sell into Europe and steel firms like Liberty at Aldwarke face a 25% tariff surcharge.
Of course, with a no-deal Brexit all the same outstanding issues will still have to be negotiated with the EU but Britain will have less leverage and bargaining power. Johnson will also be more desperately dependent on striking a trade deal with the US, who want to open up our NHS to big US drugs companies and our supermarkets to hormone-grown beef and chlorine-washed chicken.
This is why Labour’s 2017 election manifesto declared: “leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ is the worst possible deal for Britain and would do damage to our economy and trade. We will reject ‘no deal’ as a viable option.”
Faced now with this very real risk, Labour’s number one priority over the next three months is to continue leading the – so far successful – all-party majority in Parliament to prevent Britain crashing out of the EU at the end of October.
We do think the Prime Minister should have the confidence to put his deal or no-deal back to a public vote to give people the final say. In that referendum, if the only options are no-deal or a bad Tory deal, then Labour would campaign for remain because this will be the best way to safeguard jobs, rights and living standards.
Nevertheless, my strong view has always been that the most important vote the public should have is a general election.
While the Conservative Party in government are failing on Brexit, they’re also failing on every other front – from the NHS to real wages to housing. They are too divided and dysfunctional to do the job. The same Tory hardliners who have blocked progress on Brexit want less public spending, less government action and less market regulation for big business. They paralyse their own government because ministers can’t command a majority in the Commons.
Although the Conservatives cling to power, a general election may become the only way of breaking the deadlock and giving people the chance to pass judgement on the Government and on Parliament.