One of the defining characteristics of the Brexit process has been the shifting of both blame and responsibility almost entirely onto the shoulders of the losing side. I voted to remain. I continue to advocate that the UK’s future is inextricably linked with the European Union. My opinion on these issues, however, has been continually marginalised.
When Keir Starmer announced that he would whip his MPs to vote in favour of the deal that Johnson has cooked up, I was taken aback. Subsequently, the supposed leader of the opposition has doubled down on his decision. Speaking to The Guardian, Starmer is quoted saying “If we are still arguing in 2024 about what has gone in these past four years, we’re facing the wrong way as far as I’m concerned.”
Starmer wants to draw a line under the last five years of political debate. I get that. Most people are tired of the issue. Being tired of an issue, however, does not mean that it will go away. The practical problems will soon start to mount up, and we will have to deal with them one way or another. It’s impossible to simply declare that the job is done, and that we should move on, when so much can go wrong and will need fixing.
I thought I was voting for a pragmatist when I re-joined the Labour Party in December 2019 in order to support Starmer in his leadership bid. I’m not sure what he’s turned out to be? Certainly, he is tone-deaf to my concerns and feelings, and the concerns and feelings of the millions of people who campaigned and voted to remain in the EU. My hope that Starmer might be a figurehead for a progressive political realignment feels like it is ebbing away.
Starmer’s dismissal of the feelings and emotions of the millions of Remainers is setting the path to the future in the wrong way. Are we to be denied one last moment of acknowledgement and representation in parliament? It might only be symbolic solace, but it would bring closure for many. We tried, we said one last time what are concerns are, and then we moved on. Starmer is denying us this moment, even though he claims to be allowing it.
Is the history of opposition to Brexit going to be swept under the carpet, like it never happened? Remember the millions of people who marched for a People’s Vote? Remember Led by Donkeys? We might not have been successful in our opposition to Brexit, but our concerns are still valid. We are citizens of the United Kingdom, for a short time at least, and we are entitled to political representation. Our point of view has to be articulated and recorded, but who will speak to those concerns and worries now? Who will mourn the passing of our collective freedoms secured in the EU for the beggar-thy-neighbour English nationalism that now rules supreme?
It wasn’t the remain voters who said that Brexit Means Brexit. It was Theresa May playing to the right wing of the Tory Party that confirmed her autocratic red lines, with her hard-line focus on sovereignty. Who from the Brexit cabal reached out to Scotland or Northern Ireland, except to buy favour with bungs to shore-up a failing premiership? Look at Northern Ireland now, torn apart from the United Kingdom and destined to be part of a shared Ireland as a quasi-member of the EU.
History will note, where was the magnanimity from the victorious? Where was the listening ear that took account of the concerns and worries of those who did not want to rip the United Kingdom from it’s internationalist and European moorings? All we got was nationalistic jingoism and bile, aided and abetted by a right-wing press devoid of accountability, and shambolic party leadership in parliament in the form of Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson.
To be opposed to Brexit was to be a Remoaner, an enemy of the people, an anti-democrat. Our priorities, however, were never addressed, acknowledged or considered. Brexit was an ideological putsch of a far-right cabal who have tossed aside any genuine and practical concerns of the population, who are now cowed and are simply waiting for the storm to pass. We are destined to be sore losers, and we should get over it is all we are told.
Why Keir Starmer would choose this moment to re-draw his battle lines, and those of the Labour Party, however, is beyond me. This is simply the closing moment of the first act. The Brexit story will go on. If the Remainers don’t feel they are being included in any of the planning for the future, then resentment will fester. It’s one thing to win, it’s another to rub the faces of your chastened opponents in the dirty.
But now Johnson doesn’t have to do that. Starmer is doing it for him. The millions who still believe that we have given up something valuable, which can’t be replaced with jingoistic fake boosterism, are still entitled to have their views heard. We are sill here, and we are not being acknowledged and represented as a cast member at the end of the first act. We are being wiped from history as an irrelevance.
Time will tell, and events will catch up with those who think that what Johnson has secured is actually worth the paper it is written on. When the hurrahs die down, the prickly task of making this new reality work must start. But why should I bother to help in that task? Why should I engage with anything that is not in my own self-interest? You haven’t listened to my concerns, why should I listen to yours?
When Starmer wants help rebuilding the so-called red wall, please don’t come to me to assist in that task. Starmer will now have to do this by himself. When UK trade is falling short, and businesses are crying out for less red tape, less friction and more common connections for their trade to succeed, then who will speak truth to those in power?
What is being rushed through parliament today is monumentally and historically toxic. There will be no scrutiny, no coordinated opposition, and no solace for anyone who would oppose this charade. Forever will Keir Starmer be associated with the call ‘well you voted for it!’ There will be no Brexit dividend for the Labour Party, only more irrelevance and in fighting.
Today, however, I will wear my 48% badge one last time with pride.