The Labour leadership clearly thinks it’s been very clever in saying it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU. This raises the possibility that Theresa May might be defeated in the Commons over Anna Soubry’s amendment proposing that Britain stays in “a” customs union after Brexit, if enough Remainer Tories vote with Labour against the Prime Minister.
Maybe this will happen; there’s talk that Mrs May is so concerned about this she’s thinking of turning the thing into a confidence motion, daring the Tory Remainer rebels to vote her out of office and risk putting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
But Corbyn’s customs union tactic tells us certain things about what the Labour party has become, none of them good. It is now a traitor to the national interest, it is contemptuous of democracy and – perhaps most strikingly of all – its ultra-leftist leadership has taken the side of big business against the wishes of the ordinary people who until now have voted for it.
Traitor to the national interest because any customs union arrangement with the EU will tie Britain into EU controls which will hobble its ability to strike trade deals to its advantage. That’s the whole point of the EU customs union, indeed a core function of the EU – to destroy the possibility of competition by countries which might use it to gain economic advantage over the basket-case EU which would be left mired in its own protectionist quicksands.
Contemptuous of democracy because the point of the customs union manoeuvre is to thwart Brexit. Talk of “soft” or “hard” Brexit is a dishonest ploy to conceal the fact that Britain either leaves the EU or it does not – and “soft” Brexit means it will not. If Britain remains in thrall to the EU through a customs union it will be Brexit in name only; the country won’t have left the EU at all. Like the demand to remain in the single market after leaving, it is a tactic to thwart the democratically-expressed will of the people to leave while pretending it is doing nothing of the kind.
Most remarkable of all, it’s a betrayal of Labour’s own core vote – the working people who voted Brexit because they have had enough of being screwed over by the EU and losing their livelihoods as a result and who want to be able to control the law and policy that governs them through a parliament they can elect and throw out if they don’t like what it’s doing. And for this they have been abused and insulted and defamed by metropolitan, intellectually puffed-up Remainers who say the Brexit voters are just too thick even to understand what sovereignty means and that their real motivation was nothing other than xenophobia and bigotry.
Unlike the Remainers, whose own personal lifestyle, interests and influences often cross national boundaries, those whose less stellar lives are dependent upon locality and nation have every interest in being able to influence what happens to that nation.
They have now been abandoned by an ultra-left leadership which has shown its contempt for ordinary people and which, in the words of the former Chancellor, soft-furnishings heir and uber-Remainer George Osborne, has made Labour more pro-business than the Tories. (Big business that is; unlike the multinationals, for whom national sovereignty is an irritating irrelevance, small businesses stand to prosper once they are freed from the EU’s regulatory paralysis).
Havering, Hartlepool and Hull can go hang; Labour has become the Islington dinner party.