The #Lab18 Brexit motion conference landmine that delegates must dig out


The various Brexit-related motions submitted to Labour’s conference have been ‘composited’ down to a single version that will be debated and voted upon by delegates – and it contains a landmine for the party that will damage its electoral prospects and provide an open goal for its enemies if it is passed.

The wording of the motion as it currently stands is:

If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in
negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit
from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.

Labour must support all options remaining on the table” ties the party’s hands and commits it to supporting an anti-Brexit or second referendum strategy – which would cause huge damage in pro-leave northern towns that Labour needs to win in order to oust the most malignant Tory government in living memory.

For Labour to commit itself to such a position now would incredibly politically foolish, providing the Tories with an immediate release valve for the pressure their Brexit incompetence has built up on them and offering a simple distraction: “Look, we might be disastrous at Brexit but Labour want to block it altogether!

Labour’s position up to now – holding all options open and allowing the Tories to implode – remains exactly the right one, for both the party and a country that desperately needs Labour government. Jeremy Corbyn has played it exactly right.

Whether innocently or intentionally, a huge landmine has been planted in the motion as it stands.

The first version ties the leadership’s hands – and does so long before necessary even for those opposed to Brexit. The second frees the leadership to keep its powder dry and to react in the best way to each situation as it evolves.

The second gets Labour into government. The first is a free gift to a floundering Tory party.

The motion as it stands will go to the conference floor. It’s essential that it doesn’t pass, so that delegates can avoid a needless and hugely-damaging misstep.

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  1. Well, you can’t support “all” options can you? You can consider them all and then choose one to get behind, or am I missing something?

    1. Yes,we will have to choose one to get behind Paulo,but at the opportune moment.The establishment want Labour to commit to the remain position,letting the Tories off the hook and possibly damaging Labour’s election prospects at the same time.There is no political price to be paid for waiting at this time ,and large potential gains,as the Tories tear themselves apart.

    2. the brexit landscape is constantly changing, sometimes in one day. You know how the media will frame the debate – not ‘what are you thinking now’ – but ‘you said last year that…’ and then everyone is saying how you can’t trust labour because they don’t know what they want, no-one else does either but the only ones to be criticised will be labour. The media will always try to control the agenda. Look at the talk by the archbishop last week. What he said would be agreeable to almost every right minded person in the country, and wholly supported by the vast majority. They wanted to attack him, but they couldn’t attack the content so they attacked the man. To protect Labour then you want to stay off-piste until the right moment. Labour has played a blinder so far, no matter which side you are on.

  2. I agree with the main thrust of this piece.We have to keep our options open,whilst allowing the Tories to suffer the political damage their own stupidity has brought upon them.

  3. Paulo, the first to reply, is correct. You can supprt “all options” but when push omes to shove and the Brexit Bill collapses you can opt for the most realistic and acheveable option on offer in that political world – which at the moment is a far way country whose contours are hard to define.

  4. That Labour members could compose such a loosely-worded motion is embarrassing.
    Should be withdrawn as soon as possible and never spoken of again.

    1. “Labour must support keeping all options on the table” would be a less ambiguous way of stating what I think is meant.

  5. I voted to leave the rich boys club (the EU) but the centrists, moderates, mainstream media, the right-wing and the ruling class have never forgiven me.

    1. Ella,the whole world is a “rich man’s club”and to a degree I haven’t seen in my lifetime.though familiar to students of history.It serves no useful purpose to the leg,when the whole body is diseased!

    2. The Rich Boys Club? You mean the ERG (people like Jacob Rees-Mogg) not the EU.
      Real Wages have risen by 11% in EU countries like France and Germany since 2008 but they’ve fallen by 4.6% in Britain – OECD data and reported by The Economist last week.
      Profits in investment vehicles, such as Rees-Mogg’s, up 33% since 2008.
      Go along with the Tories Hard Brexit and you’ll see all of the Worker Protections, Environment Protections and Food Safety Standards of the EU disappear.

      1. @Ella. It’s OECD data that The Economist reported. You may care to dismiss OECD data compiled from figures supplied by the world’s governments if you wish but it still affects you.

      2. Daley..

        81,000 sick and disabled UK citizens died prematurely resulting from the intense stress and humiliation dished out by the deliberately cruel Atos assessment tests WHILST we were a member of the civilised EU.

        The EU turned a blind eye.

        Do not patronise me.

        I know more about the barbarous EU than you realise.

      3. @Ella Despite what some calling for complete exit from the EU say, the EU cannot interfere with a sovereign member state’s internal policies.
        The Kick the Poor policies of the Tories are not the result of the EU and cannot be addressed by the EU.
        I find it depressing that sections of the Left want a Hard Brexit when that is what the Idle Rich like Rees-Mogg and other neo-liberals dream of.
        Note the bonfire of the regulations of workers’ rights and food standards that the ERG, IEA and Non-Taxpayers Alliance band of greedy capitalists crave for following exit from the EU.

      4. Well, that’s a powerful case for not supporting a Tory Brexit Daley; but, as you have said yourself, Membership of the EU is no guarantee, that the Tories won’t continue to “kick the poor” and there’s been quite a lot thrown on the bonfire already.

      5. @Paulo Well, if you are in favour of a Hard Brexit with the Tory Government and all the rich boys taking advantage of a deregulated system free from EU workers’ rights, that’s your choice.

      6. I thought it was pretty clear from my comments, and elsewhere, on this thread that I am not in favour of a Tory led hard Brexit. I’m not in favour of a Tory led anything. If I was, I doubt that I’d be reading SkwawkB.

      7. Please, don’t insult people’s intelligence by constantly playing the Jacob Rees Mogg card. We’ll only dump regulations and rights if the electorate allows it.
        The problem with remain voters, is “what happens after?” If by some trick we decide to remain in the EU, what happens then?
        Will we be allowed to stay? Will we lose current benefits? Will the EU happily roll-over, when as far as they are concerned, we’ve left and they’ve invested a lot of time and money in adjusting to the new Europe. Apart from that, Europe hasn’t stood still, they are changing and closer integration is necessary to strengthen the Euro. So, in my book, we will have to leave anyway at some point in the not too distant future and as we are almost out now, let’s make a good job of it because, I think there will be others following us unless they can all agree on federation, which is near impossible in the current climate.

      8. @Paulo The article above comes out against a People’s Vote including the option to remain in the EU. I see that as a choice between a Tory Deal or a Tory No Deal and both of those are hugely damaging.
        If you’re dreaming of a Socialist Nirvana with the rest of the world prepared to play along, the reality will bite Britain hard.
        I envisage an exit in March 2019 with large sections of Britain’s manufacturing being lost to EU countries and after that, it’ll be too late.

      9. @lundiel The price of a deal post Brexit with the USA and elsewhere will be precisely what Jacob Rees-Mogg and other idle rich parasites want.
        You say: “We’ll only dump regulations and rights if the electorate allows it.”
        Do you honestly think that the electorate is going to be balloted over the dumping of regulations, rights, privatisation of the NHS etc? I don’t. The loss of regs and rights and the NHS will be presented as a ‘needs must’ with no alternative.

      10. You didn’t address my questions. I don’t think you have an answer, apart from having a massive party if you can somehow get the referendum result nullified. I ask again, do you think the British people will support closer European integration or, second class membership without the power of veto? And do you think Europe is just waiting for us to say, “we made a mistake” so they can say “that’s alright, if you stay we won’t change anything and you can keep your rebate etc”?

      11. Daley, in my first response I tried (and failed) to gently nudge you to the contradictions clearly apparent in your position as stated.

        Can I nudge you now in the direction of the article above and persuade you to read it with a bit more intelligence and care? The article says that “…for the LP to commit itself politically to such a position now would (be) incredibly foolish…”

        This is far from what you claim its saying and there are some rather important underlying concerns behind the point being made that you don’t seem to have engaged with.

      12. @Paulo and @lundiel I see the UK exiting the EU in March 2019 without any deal whatsoever, The ERG and others will be delighted that they pulled off the biggest con on the electorate.

  6. This is utter nonsense and shows just how right-wing Skwawkbox is. Of course there must be an option to remain in the EU! Of course people must be given the option to change their minds and reverse the disastrous result of the 2016 referendum. If remaining in the EU is not an option, then there is no point in having a people’s vote! And Skwawkbox should stop telling us that bogeymen in the north will come and get us, if we put Remain on the table. Labour’s future, if it has one, lies with its young supporters who are overwhelmingly in favour of saying in the EU.

    1. Paul, do read before commenting. It’s generally a good idea. A motion that says ‘consider every option’ keeps the option of staying in open – because that’s an option. It just doesn’t self-combust by *committing* to an option and giving the Tories a get-out-of-jail card.

      It’s intelligent politics and there’s nothing right-wing about that – nor intrinsically anything left-wng about wanting to block Brexit. Which can be seen by a glance at some of those who want to.

      1. I assure you I read your article which quite explicitly opposes an anti-Brexit strategy. In other words you want some kind of Brexit, although you may imagine it wouldn’t be as toxic as the one Nigel Farage might dream of. The idea that there is a left wing version of Brexit (a “Lexit”) has long been exploded as a delusion. I am convinced that Labour will win if it puts itself at the head of the Remain. It will lose if it imagines the future is in the hands of ageing leavers in Sunderland.Hence the “people’s vote” should be a choice between May’s proposals and remaining in the EU. Otherwise it will be worthless. If Corbyn doesn’t seize this change then I doubt that he will ever become PM..

      2. Yes Paul,

        Let’s all pray: that the old and the infirm – the ones that might not agree with you – all die as quickly as possible.

        What is this – The Guardian comments section?

    2. Thanks for calling me a bogeyman and inferring I didn’t know what I was voting for when I voted to leave the EU. I always appreciate my betters putting plebs like me in my place.

    3. I don’t understand Paul…

      I voted to leave the EU. So what is this ‘option’ you speak of? How will it benefit me? Was my vote for nothing? Do I have to vote Leave a second time?

    4. There was no “Youthquake” in the 2017 election. Turnout for the 18-25 year olds was the same as it was in 2015. You’re the one brandishing myths.

  7. I agree the wording may be ambiguous. It should be made clear it is about supporting all options being kept on the table, not supporting their obligatory application.

    1. Yes, and although it’s ambiguous It would be a disaster to see it tightening up any further than “must (or will) consider all options remaining on the table” as with the main thrust of the comments above.

      I would be happy with “must/will consider…” i.e. just a one word change and I’d argue for this on the grounds that otherwise the wording is potentially nonsensical – depending on the “contours” of that “far away country”.

      However, I’d also settle for the fudge as it stands, rather than arrive at a wording, that suggested, at this stage, an unambiguous commitment to a “people’s vote” on leave/remain, in the event of no election.

      It’s not that I don’t have sympathy with those members who support remain for their beliefs; it’s just that my loyalty to the business of electing a Labour govt. has the edge on that sympathy. 86% of members is not a figure that can be ignored, but the Leave supporting Labour heartlands are also a highly significant demographic and I am not persuaded by the various polls cited by the various campaigns. I am sure there are still a great number who would justifiably see any commitment towards a 2nd remain-leave vote, at this stage, as an untimely betrayal.

      1. You are correct.

        In my mind (and in reality) the EU represents the interests of the middle classes.

        It represents the small and large business owners who enjoyed cheap EU Freedom of Movement labour so that they could maximise their profits. It’s the class who enjoyed easier and cheaper travel to and from their second homes in Tuscany and who now whine incessantly about post Brexit air fares.

        It’s the Guardian and Observer readers who remain blissfully ignorant to their income privilege. Those who are insulated against poverty and the working class experience within their little artisan bubble of Brussels cosiness.

        If Labour implemented a second EU Referendum it would feel like a monumental class betrayal and it would expose and crack open the veneer that is bourgeois ‘democracy’ forever.

      2. The referendum question made no reference to what party we vote for. I therefore call into question any poll that claims to know how Labour supporters voted. I treat YouGov with particular disdain. As far as I’m concerned it only represents the views of people who do marketing surveys for money and are happy to tell total strangers their personal information.

  8. WE will see how the debate goes. I expect the resolution to go through, and whislt not perfect from my perspective (and to be honest, any resolution whittled down into a composite from 150 seperate elements over a 8 hour session is not going to be of Shakespearian quality) but expresses what I hope will be a grudging concensus. Len may have misgivings from his old anti-EU DNA, but the ret of the UNITE delegation who represent carmakers, planemakers, steelworkers and engineers – all of whom see EU trade as vital for their members job interests – will prevail.

  9. ‘In my mind (and in reality) the EU represents the interests of the middle classes. It represents the small and large business owners who enjoyed cheap EU Freedom of Movement labour so that they could maximise their profits.’

    Ella: What you say is no doubt true, but then again, much of the ‘cheap labour’ has come from countries outside of the EU over the decades, and will no doubt continue to do so. The problem for the LP is that it’s the working classes (who would normally vote Labour) who have – one way or another – been affected by mass immigration, and the Tories know it. But just out of interest – and please believe me that I respect your position regarding the EU – what sort of Brexit would you hope for if a Jeremy-led Labour government were in power and conducting the negotiations?

    1. Any kind where we don’t have to be beholden to single market rules that forbid nationalisation and which allows the UK government to financially support the economy by supporting UK industry.

      Both these things are banned by the EU (see Article 106 and the recent blocking of state aid packages, by the EU, in the UK and Italian steel industry). These bodies and agreements, like the proposed TTIP agreement which the EU was eagerly making preparations for are neoliberalism manifest.

      Notice how the EU was recently attacking unions in France.. It will only get worse in the years to come.

  10. Agree Skwawbox – ‘should consider all options’. Perhaps instead of the EC the question to me was how do you build a left wing democratic socialist society as an example to others? There were possibly 2 options (a) via sister EC socialist parties & trade unions or (b) via independent nation states cooperating. I reluctantly voted remain thinking this was the last EC collective throw of the dice to try to break Neo-Liberalism. It didn’t take me long in the morning after to re-analyse the situation to realise it must be (b) and to accept the result. If we could get demcratic control of labour supply and capital supply (as it was for countries Pre-Neo-Liberalism) then as an example to others we could break the Neo-Liberal Straight Jacket, and control of labour supply would also include non-European countries too. But do some take a UK-Centric view, come here and make us (and our rich richer) but what of the impact on the countries migrants come from? Bulgaria is expected to have lost 50% of its population by 2020 & who is providing their services? Of course there are benefits for migrant workers with the PULL of higher wages but vile Right Wing Govts like Poland stop unemployment benefits after 6 months so there is also a PUSH so do some of the left think locally and globally? My concern is that a second referendum would be a slap in the face for Northern working people and Labour if it suported A PEOPLES VOTE (when we have already had one but was it the wrong type of ‘people’?) could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! It is a difficult debate when you know you are probably in a minority and you believe a majority of your comrades may be wrong; but left wing democratic socialists should tell people not what they want to hear but what they need to hear! Support ‘Should consider all options”.

  11. The words “must support all options remaining on the table” should be interpreted as meaning that Labour must support the remaining-on-the-table of all options, not that it supports all options being implemented.

    1. Well said Danny – actually this seems to me to be the only legitimate interpretation – and for that matter well said John Thatcher and AlanMaddison20 and David McNiven too.

  12. Footnote to my comment: We also need to shout out loud that it was the Tories and Lib Dems as a part of austerity that ended migration adjustment funds for councils affected which unfortunately contributed to the conditions for the Remain defeat so ironically Cameron and the Lib Dems under Clegg sowed the seeds of their own destruction with their short sightedness and Labour is committed to bringing these migration adjustment funds back.
    If Labour can get democratic control of labour and capital supply whilst maintaining protections for workers and the environment etc. then our Brexit for working people could be the first break in the Neo-Liberal chain and if other countries follow our example it could be the endgame for Neo-Liberalism, perhaps a checkmate if we only have the socialist vision!

    1. AI/robotics job losses will likely start with drivers but after that the middle classes become the most tempting targets.
      They’ll probably turn more socialist than any of us when they see their own futures disappearing in puffs of smoke.
      AI won’t kill capitalism dead on the spot but it’ll be a mortal wound.
      Hope I live to see newly-unemployed Ruperts telling each other they were always secretly socialists – fighting neoliberalism from the inside.
      Got to make sure generations to come don’t decide Utopia’s boring and they want to try capitalism again though.

      1. Good points if slightly off message but this is why as socialists we should be fighting for a 4 day week without loss of pay and retirement for all at 65 if not 60 – share the work out, harness the benefits of new technology for citizens and not for purely profit and I always think human beings are generally best at caring for human beings, one academic suggested a new worker may emerge ’empathy workers’ what we could call ‘professional friends’ and as Age UK pointed out up to 2m older people have not spoken to someone in the last one to two months so we can address rarely discussed issues like loneliness. There is much we can do in a left wing democratic socialist society when we put diverse working people first.

  13. Where’s the ‘second’ version? Confused. You’ve only written down one motion.
    I’m against both PV and 2nd ref personally but I don’t get the last bit of your piece.

  14. If the labour Party adopt this motion for a 2nd Referendum to remain in the EU, it will be seen by many ignorant & racist working class voters like myself as a betrayal. Be careful what you wish for, the comfortable middle classes may despise us, but if we are completely ignored & alienated, then ‘the deplorables’ may no longer see the Labour Party as their representative, or their natural home. Tim Farron’s motion, apparently seconded by Tony Blair is Liberal Democrat policy. The Labour Party has always been eurosceptic & for good reasons.

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