The progress of the Brexit talks has produced many a contradiction. Those who previously scoffed at Eurosceptic concerns that we were too deeply integrated with the EU have suddenly switched to arguing that we’re so deeply integrated that it’s impossible to leave at all. Supposed experts who previously said there was no chance of securing Juncker’s agreement that there had been “sufficient progress” in the talks are now wailing about the Government having done so. People who campaigned in the referendum for the UK to pay tens of billions of pounds to the EU every year from here to eternity are now complaining that we might pay a one-off settlement sum in the process of leaving.
But perhaps the greatest contradiction factory is the Opposition’s position on Brexit.
Led by a lifelong opponent of the EU who claims to have voted Remain, Labour backed ‘Stronger In’ while Seumas Milne effectively sabotaged its campaigning capacity.
As his Party reeled in horror at the outcome of the referendum, Corbyn instantly called for the immediate triggering of Article 50, and yet was unable to successfully whip all of his MPs to vote for such a step even months later when it actually came before Parliament.
Having pledged in their manifesto to end free movement, and thereby leave the Single Market, over the summer Labour then allowed Keir Starmer to shimmy their collective position towards staying in the Single Market. Meanwhile, John McDonnell has continued to develop an economic platform which conflicts with basic principles of the Single Market itself.
During the autumn, Starmer has pushed the Opposition’s position ever further away from its own stated policies. Nowadays he refuses to rule out a second referendum, despite his Party’s leadership explicitly doing so earlier in the year. He wants us to follow Norway in allowing the EU to set our regulations without us having a say on them, despite that position being heavily criticised by his side during the referendum campaign itself. Having promised to end free movement, he now wants “easy movement, if not free”, whatever that means. And he wants Britain to continue to pay money to the EU permanently, despite Labour complaining bitterly in recent weeks about the prospect of the Chancellor spending any money at all on even preparing for Brexit.
What a peculiar sight: a hard left Labour Party chanting ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ while it lines up with lobbyists for some of the world’s biggest multinationals to press for power and money to go not to the people but to the unelected, spoiled Brussels elite. The Opposition claims to honour the outcome of the referendum, while opposing the UK taking back control of its laws, its money, and its borders. It cannot do both.