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Anti-Article 50 Platitudes

By Ed Pond, Labour Activist

Watching the speeches of those MPs opposing the Article 50 bill last week, it was a comprehensive recap of the unconvincing pro-EU arguments that have festooned the entire debate. Here are some of the best, or worst!

1. 'People didn't vote to lose their jobs.'

No, they didn't. Why would they? They may well have taken economic outcomes into consideration, and realised recession and lost jobs were not a foregone conclusion of leaving the single market (that's right, I said the single market!). Indeed, they may have seen opportunities to have better job availability for British citizens, less small-business red tape, and more beneficial trade arrangements. Ordinary people can do that, you know. Oh, and did the citizens of Greece and Spain ask to lose theirs?

2. 'MPs have a duty to their constituencies, which voted to Remain.'

Right, so what about those Labour and Lib Dem MPs whose constituencies fell within leave voting areas, yet voted against the bill? Oh, they are voting with their 'consciences' instead - sorry. The other counter to this platitude is that we voted to leave as the whole UK: one person, one vote. Now they have a duty to the whole electorate and the country, which supersedes individual constituencies. See also, 'I have a duty to Scotland'.

3. 'MPs should vote with their conscience.'

In all votes in Parliament, MPs have to balance their conscience with reflecting their constituents' views. Sometimes one loses out to the other, especially in unusual matters such as military action. That's natural and it can't be any other way. But what makes this situation different is that there has been a public referendum. The government and Parliament agreed to its terms, handed the decision directly to the electorate and they are bound by the result. There is no excuse for not at least starting the two year process, no matter what flimflam MPs might come up with.  

4. 'Britain will become a bargain basement tax haven.'

What hyperbole. We very definitely need tax to fund our full welfare state. Small developing nation tax havens like the Cayman Islands do not have one. Yes, the Tories make damaging cuts and privatisation, but there isn't a will to do away with the welfare state entirely - in the party and more importantly the public. Other tax havens like Jersey are very well off and have small populations, so can afford a welfare state. There is a danger in Brexit that deregulation could result in corporations receiving lucrative tax-breaks, and more spending cuts could be made; but it is up to the oppositions to fight against such factors when the Great Repeal Bill is debated.

5. 'Why should our future be in the hands of the unelected Prime Minister and her right wing cabal?'

Theresa May is just as 'unelected' as Gordon Brown was. She was elected to her seat, and then (in her case unopposed) as party leader - that is legitimate. Her cabal? Sadly also elected MPs - but not all Alan B'stards. There are some varying political views in her 22 strong cabinet, not least where the EU is concerned. Yes, from a left wing perspective Brexit comes at a rather inconvenient time. But to sidestep a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity just because the right happens to be in a stronger position and we're scared of them would be daft. Labour could have called a referendum when they were stronger - say around the time of the Nice or Lisbon treaty - so arguably they are to blame for the right wing having the ball at this crucial moment.

6. 'We will pull up the drawbridge and be a little Englander island.'

This is the classic derisory line, painting the image of Colonel Blimps patrolling the beachheads with Civil War halberds. We are told we are turning our backs on the most super-duper free trade area in the world and thus shutting ourselves off. Quite the contrary.  The aim is, and must be, to draw up trade deals on our own terms all over the world; including, don't forget, a fresh one with the EU. The single market is a protectionist system anyway, economically and (usually) in terms of immigration. Its growth has been stagnating and its single currency volatile, but you never hear the phrase 'Little European'. The old men with the halberds are really Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt.

More platitudes to come in part two. If your MP opposed Article 50, why not write to them and persuade them to back it at the next stage?


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