Keir Starmer doesn’t talk about Brexit much anymore. He’s desperate to leave the issue behind; for everyone to “move on” and stop talking about a subject that has bizarrely helped further destroy the Labour party while making the Tories electorally invincible. And yet, there are days when he can’t help himself. Yesterday was one of those days.
Speaking on LBC, Starmer started off by taking Boris Johnson to town on the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol.
“We do need to remind the prime minister that he signed on the dotted line: this is what he negotiated. If he’s saying it doesn’t work he should look in the mirror and say, well, did I sign something, then that wasn’t very sensible?”
“He didn’t read it, didn’t understand it, or he didn’t tell us the truth about it when he said what it had in it.”
As Jeremy Corbyn might have put it, “strong message here” – I don’t disagree with a single word from Starmer above. Boris Johnson either must have known that he was signing the UK up to something that was going to be highly problematic, all so he could position himself for a general election victory with an “oven ready deal” – or he had no idea what he was signing us all up to, meaning it was an act of extraordinary incompetence. There are no other options available; it can only logically speaking be one of the two.
But even in this section of what Starmer said on the radio, there were huge problems. For instance, given Starmer knew what the NI protocol entailed, not to mention all the other troublesome aspects of the Boris Brexit deal, why did he whip his MPs to vote for it? I can hear the excuses already – “But the alternative was no deal!” is popular. So is “If Labour voted against the deal, they would have thought we were trying to stop Brexit!”. These lame ass attempts at vindication are problematic on their own, never mind that when you put them together you are presenting two theses at the same time which are the precise opposite of one another. You can’t think that by voting against the deal, Labour would have been presenting themselves as no deal extremists and Remainers trying one last time to stop Brexit in the same moment, can you? Apparently, in this bizarre age we inhabit, this level of doublethink is possible.
But it got worse – a whole lot worse. What Starmer said next was exponentially more troublesome.
“Having checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not the way forward. Having any checks between the Republic and Northern Ireland is absolutely not the way forward. So we need to make some real progress. There’s probably going to have to be flexibility on both sides, as ever.”
Of anything that Keir Starmer has ever said that I have been witness to, this is far and away the worst. It actually makes me think a lot less of him as a person that he would peddle such drivel. If we don’t have checks down the Irish Sea and none on the island of Ireland itself, what exactly is Keir Starmer proposing as his magical solution to this problem? You are left with rejoining the Single Market and Customs Union, the EU itself, or at the very least spending a long time, probably about a decade, negotiating some arrangement with the EU that solves this problem.
And yet, this is where it gets really annoying: not only has Starmer ruled out rejoining any of those things, he has ruled out renegotiating the post-Brexit settlement in any fashion. This is what Starmer said about it in January:
“I don’t think that there’s scope for major renegotiation. (The deal is) thin, it’s not what was promised, but whether we like it or not that is going to be the treaty that an incoming Labour government inherits and has to make work.”
Okay, so he doesn’t like the NI protocol and thinks checks either down the Irish Sea or on land are “not the way forward” – and yet he has pledged not to renegotiate the treaties in any way whatsoever, meaning even if he becomes prime minister, we are stuck with what we’ve got. The current post-Brexit customs arrangements are not the way forward, according to Starmer – but they must be by his own reckoning given he wouldn’t change them in any way.
I don’t know why Starmer or those around him think that in the face of a misinformation campaign on all of this by the government, the Labour party further muddying the water with complete and utter horse shit is going to help anything. All Starmer is doing with this stuff is annoying Remainers while Leavers have long since made up their minds about what he thinks about Brexit. It is difficult to put into exact words how much all this makes me think, “I really do get why people voted for the Tories”. If Labour are offering no change to the problems created by this government, and are swimming in the same false narratives anyhow, why should someone like me even think about voting for them?
Starmer said he wanted to leave Brexit behind and “move on”. I think that unless he wants to majorly shift Labour policy on Brexit back towards a Remainer friendly position – and it is questionable whether he could even pull that off now – he should follow his own advice. Whenever he talks about anything Brexit related these days, it comes across as a confusing mess that makes no sense on any available terms. All he does by bringing all this up in nonsensical fashion is remind Remainers he is no longer one of them. All he does is help the Green surge to grow.
Starmer wants Brexit “done”? Then he should shut up about it.
While I’m here, I’ve got a new book coming out in the autumn entitled The Patient. It’s about a woman who goes into the hospital to give birth to her child, being two weeks overdue….and ends up staying in the hospital for a year, still pregnant the whole time. If you want to find out more, here’s where you can have a better look.
Heartbreak hotel says
I get the world weary feeling that as a progressive we are in deep trouble.
All my life I have voted Labour and only deviated once to vote for the moral authority of Kennedy over Iraq.
2 events have changed everything.
Nick Clegg to go centre right and join the Tories in government of Eye watering austerity.
Even you now must at night wake up in a sweat at the suicidal strategic error of the Con Dem pact.
Hague apart from his fashion sense got it right when after signing on the dotted line he said we have just killed the Lib Dems.
So expect no relief against the tories from this centre ground in our lifetime.
Lets now come to Brexit and the English attitude.
Since the loss of Empire our country very reluctantly came to the conclusion late that being part of a post war club was beneficial economically.
We even opted out of the world cup of nations which begun around 1930.
Over 20 years later we realised This was a huge global event not to be missed.
Hence 1966 is instilled as historic as victory in any war.
This feeling of Exceptionalism is deeply rooted we will join you but we are better than you and you need us more than we need you.
Now who would tap this feeling not Tebbit with his crude cricket test analogy.
Behold the Boris the born again Churchill the thumbs up replacing the V for victory.
All he required being a chancer was a reckless arrogant gambler of a prime minister.
Step forward Mr Cameron.
As you said previously Nick the Boris late Elvis act is set in stone.
It really does not matter what he does
Brexit is his Elvis on tour Las Vegas baby.
As long as he keeps singing hound dog jailhouse rock and heartbreak hotel.
The fans will keep coming because he is Bad Elvis and the EU are some foreign band nobody understands probably Kraftwerk.Which I like by the way.
Now tell me how Labour can break into Boris Elvis on tour act.
He has already captured the English exceptionalism tunes wrapped them up in working class beats.
Brexit has all the tunes for the majority working class.
Perhaps Keir needs to turn himself into John Lennon a working class hero is something to be.
Remember the Beatles ended Elvis reign.
Goodness knows what “flexibility on both sides” means. Nevertheless, I imagine that Starmer is, in a coded way, advocating regulatory alignment, but without formally joining the Single Market.
Some would say this is the worst of all worlds, which is why Starmer is not spelling it out, even though there plainly are many worse alternatives, of which Johnson’s protocol is one.
Starmer cannot avoid talking of Brexit any more than Johnson, you or anyone else can avoid the blatantly obvious.
Nevertheless, I imagine that Starmer is, in a coded way, advocating regulatory alignment, but without formally joining the Single Market.
No, he’s just lying through his teeth. His intent is to say whatever will get him elected, then attempt to rejoin the EU (possibly immediately, possibly in stages, beginning with regulatory alignment, then after a year or two ‘well as our regulations are the same we may as well be in the single market and customs union’, then after another few years ‘well as we’re already back in the customs union and single market we may as well go the whole hog’).
That would be good for the UK, though I foresee a very drawn out period of alignment with/participation in the Single Market once reality gets to have its say.
Possibly you have a different definition for ‘lying’, which for me is Johnson’s hall mark. With Starmer ‘lying’ better describes his rather abject supine tendencies.
That would be good for the UK
Unless you think the UK should be a sovereign democracy, but I guess you don’t.
Heartbreak hotel says
Yes we are Sovereign.
Attached to Americas back side screaming in needy panic.
Please love me we are in a special relationship.
Don’t you know.
Democracy? If only.
Chris Moore says
Nick, I think you should re-read your article about the Chesham and Amersham by-election!
Doesn’t look good at all!
Chris Moore says
The one in the Spectator
Heartbreak hotel says
I agree with Nick
There is no sign that the lib dems will break the blue wall in a General Election.
The centre are being squeezed by the right.