The official labour Brexit policy has effectively been to not really have one. Jeremy Corbyn has skated through the last three years playing a relentless game of ‘will they won’t they’ with the People’s Vote campaign, and his remain voters generally.
Constructive ambiguity perhaps worked in the first year after the vote, but three years down the line, with no deal very much on the horizon, his policy wasn’t politically savvy – it was shameless politicking. And if the European elections are any indicator, it seems as though voters have picked up on it as the parties with a clear, unwavering stance on Brexit made significant gains.
But at least he’s got the message: even though what it took to deliver it was a hammering defeat, the Labour Party has finally taken a real stance, supporting a People’s Vote and promising to campaign for remain.
There is still a small caveat. If Labour wins a general election soon then Corbyn wants to give negotiating Brexit the old ‘college try’ himself. This seems like a last ditch attempt from an old Brexiteer, to live his dream of running a socialist Britain that exists outside the purview of the EU. Alas that dream died long ago – whether we like it or not the reality is that Brexit is a right wing project, created and spearheaded by far right figures and toxic rhetoric. And that is really the most important thing to take away from this.
There are arguments to be made about how electorally destructive it may be to unequivocally back a second referendum with remain on the ballot. Compelling arguments have been made on both sides, but this issue transcends the next general election. It transcends the next five general elections; Brexit has become such a radioactive political crisis that we just simply need to contain the problem.
This is not simply a question of economics or international political standing, it is about the future of this country. And at the moment it is being defined by an old aristocracy that have never gotten over the fall of Empire and far right rhetoric reminiscent of Enoch Powell. This is not to say that those who voted for Brexit or even those who still support it are brown-shirted fascists, but we are now moving closer and closer to a world where brown-shirted fascists are tolerated, and crucially get to define all of our futures.
Jeremy Corbyn needs to go further: he needs to not just be against a no-deal Brexit, but be in favour of a country that actually addresses the problems that led millions of Labour voters to put their faith in Leave.EU and the Brexit Party.
We need a party that is not only offering an alternative positive narrative, but one that is strong enough to do so with credibility. Jeremy Corbyn has made the right decision but I say this with trepidation; Labour has been plagued with scandal after scandal, Corbyn has spent more time fighting his own cabinet than he has fighting the Conservative government. The dream of Corbynism died a long time ago and we shouldn’t be spending this time trying to resuscitate it while we sleep walk into a crisis of unfathomable magnitudes.