Over the last few months, I’ve had many conversations in Westminster around how appalling Labour’s handling of the Brexit debate has been. Many respond to my exhortations about Corbyn’s incompetence in this area by saying “what else could he have done?”, as if everything that has taken place since June 24th has been part of an unstoppable force of nature. To be fair, I couldn’t think of an exact plan that was infallible myself. Until this morning, that is.
Corbyn should announce that the Labour Party will back May’s timetable for triggering Article 50 and allow the government a free hand in the negotiations – in exchange for a commitment, written into law via the same Bill that triggers Article 50 itself, that the government will spend the £350 million a week the Leave campaign mentioned prior to the vote on the National Health Service. This will be spent every week immediately following the departure of the country from the EU, and will continue for the remainder of the parliamentary session in which Brexit actually takes place as well as the whole of the succeeding parliament.
Bear in mind that many have stated that because both the Leave and Remain campaigns mentioned that a Leave vote would mean leaving the single market, this is now enough to have become part of the referendum question and answer and does not need further debate. Leave meanwhile wrote the £350 million figure on the side of a bus it drove up and down the country.
If Labour were to do this, either the government would simply relent, seeing that this is the price of getting the March 2017 timetable agreed, something that would result in the biggest win by a Labour opposition in the history of the party meaning even anti-Corbyn types like me would have to eat their words; or, much more likely, the government couldn’t possibly agree to such a massive sum of money going out of the Treasury for what would likely be around six years time when Brexit will actually require a tightening of belts, at least at first. In this latter scenario, the Tories would try and say the Labour manoeuvre is a stalling tactic; that they are simply trying to frustrate the “will of the people”. Yet all the while, they would be asked to justify why they won’t commit to more NHS spending, something Tory governments in particular really do not like having to do. Labour could then respond by saying they are simply asking for the largest campaign pledge by Vote Leave be honoured before they will allow everything to go ahead. It is not their fault the government won’t commit to something that was explicitly promised during the referendum campaign, now is it? Yes, the result of the referendum must be honoured – as well as the biggest pledge that very possibly swung the vote.
There you go, Labour Party, job done. I await with baited breath calls from Corbyn HQ to thank me for thinking of this.