I have, I admit, been cynical regarding Labour’s positioning on Brexit in the past. I said before the 2017 general election that they had landed on a policy regarding leaving the EU that would satisfy no one. Lo and behold, they ended up with 40% of the vote. So, who knows, perhaps this latest move is actually brilliant.
It doesn’t really look it from here though, if I’m being blunt. I will try and summarise this new position of Labour’s as straightforwardly as I can.
Labour now supports a referendum on any Brexit settlement. They will campaign on the side of Remain so long as the Tories are still in power. So, if a new Conservative prime minister can magically negotiate a deal that means every working class person in the UK gets £100k, doesn’t matter – Labour will campaign against it. However, if Labour get into power, they will still seek to take the UK out of the EU, in pursuit of that mystical “Labour Brexit” you may have heard about but have no idea exactly how it will be different from a Tory Brexit.
“Thanks for the deal, Michel. Oh, by the way, we’re now going to run a referendum campaign against what we’ve just spent months putting together here with you. Nothing personal, sorry for wasting your time.”
Again, perhaps I’ve got this all wrong like I did in 2017, but it just seems like Labour have put themselves in a perfectly bad position in terms of an imminent general election. The Tories can say that Labour are trying to stop Brexit via cowardly means, pointing out that they want a referendum while the Tories don’t. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems can campaign on the idea that Labour explicitly want to press ahead with Brexit if they get into office, and so if you want to be sure of stopping Brexit, you’ll have to vote Lib Dem. Please, someone point out to me the genius I’m missing here.