• 09 Jun - 15 Jun, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

With barely 10 months left before the UK exits the European Union, and with much less than that before an exit deal has to be finalised, the Brexit mess shows no signs of abating and in fact, with each passing day, gets messier than ever.

Much of the blame for that has to be taken by the Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn in particular, who has tried to achieve the impossible by trying to be a Brexiter in a party that now seems strongly for remaining in the EU – known here as a ‘Remainer’. Corbyn believes that the European Union is a capitalist club, against the interests of workers and that goes entirely against the grain of his 1960s socialist values. But those battles of the ‘left’ and ‘right’, ‘capitalist’ and’ labour’, which were the all-consuming issues of the sixties and seventies, have long since been settled and are no part of the political discourse any longer. Those battles have been won and lost, but Corbyn has just not been able to get out of the mindset. To that extent it is unfortunate that he leads Labour today; perhaps a leader like Owen Smith, who lost out to Corbyn in the run of the Labour leadership a year and a half ago, would have served the interests of the UK and the millions who want the entire Brexit issue revisited in the form of a second vote of the final deal, much better.

But with Corbyn refusing to budge from his obdurate stand, Labour is now beginning to crack. Last month, the Lords voted for the UK to remain in the European Economic Area ( EEA ) and the vote is due to come up in the Commons soon. That is forcing things a bit as Corbyn will have to make up his mind whether he supports that move, or faces rebellion within his party. Already, some 80 members of the House of Lords defied his directions and voted for that amendment. Now, some 18 MPs have published an open letter in the Independent asking Corbyn to back a referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal, a second referendum. Fifteen of these are Labour MPs and they are joined by a token three LibDem MPs, for all LibDem MPs are for a second referendum. A few days ago, Labour MPs in Wales too had broken away from the Party stand on the issue and demanded a second vote.

The main pressure for a second vote is coming from London, a huge cosmopolitan city that fears it may lose its position as the arts, media and financial hub of the western world. This is becoming more apparent by the day with the looming trade war between the US and the EU and with UK facing the possibility of being trapped in the middle in no man’s land, neither here nor there and, a small bits and pieces player caught between two economic giants.

The letter argues that the terms on which the UK leaves the EU have never been put to the public. To be honest, for that matter even the government does not know at this juncture what a final deal with the EU is going to look like, although it is increasingly beginning to appear that will look like something which would cause ladies to shriek. Therefore the letter argues that when a deal with the EU is finalised, a decision will have to be made on whether the deal is acceptable or not. The question then is whether that decision to accept or reject the final deal should be made by 650 MPs or whether the public should be given the right to decide that matter. Here, although the majority of MPs in the Commons do not want Brexit, Brexiters hope that their supporters in the Commons will be able to scare them into backing whatever deal is on the table for fear that any act seen as rejecting the ‘will of the people’, as expressed in the referendum of June 23, 2016, will invite the political wrath of the populace.

The puzzling thing is that for all the prophesies of economic downturn, some of them already visible with new figures showing that the UK’s rate of growth is worse than that of Romania, public opinion has only shifted slightly. Romania, it may be clarified, is the poorest country in the EU where horse drawn farm vehicles are still widely in use. And although in a new referendum today the vote would probably go in favour of remaining in the EU, it would not be the sort of overwhelming vote that one would logically expect. But then this thing never had any element of logic to it.

Corbyn’s dilemma is compounded by the fact that London is overwhelmingly Labour and as many as 49 of his MPs are from London constituencies. A block as large as that cannot be ignored. In fact, most Labour MPs are from urban constituencies where the pressure for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final terms of the EU deal is very high. In fact, on June 23, the second anniversary of the Brexit referendum, a huge rally has been planned in central London demanding a second vote and yours truly hopes to give you a front row view of the day. Watch this space. •