A progressive Brexit?

Frances Foley

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Few issues divide progressives as much as Brexit.

Jon Bloomfield’s new piece tries to find a way through the challenges and possibilities of a progressive Brexit, and its implications for the Left.

This is the first in a series of pieces on the subject of our new relationship with the EU.

You can access the full article here.

We’d like to hear your views on the subject:

– What does a progressive Brexit mean for you?
– Is it possible for progressives to find common ground on the main objectives and ideals around Brexit?
– What are the values and ideals which should shape our new negotiated relationship with the EU?

Share this post


Leave a comment

We take no responsibility for the content of the comments posted on this website, which represent the views of their authors alone.

  1. Posted by Neal Champion

    In its opening paragraph, the article states that “There is a progressive case for Brexit and for Remain”. But then it does not attempt to describe this progressive case for Remain, and for good reason – there isn’t one. Trying to pretend that there is plays into the ‘false balance’ trap that beset broadcasters during the referendum campaign.

  2. Posted by Tim Baynes

    People keep saying ‘We must obey the democratic will of the people’
    A 50 / 48 vote is hardly a clear statement of ‘The will of the People’.
    Moreover the negotiations are throwing up many new problems. As we live in a Parliamentary Democracy the final decision must be in Parliament.

  3. Posted by a Mumford

    The only way to make brexit work is to make every one equal slightly unhappy.This is.by staying in the single market and customs union. Remains will be unhappy because we haven’t got full membership,leavers will be unhappy because were partly still in the EU.

  4. Posted by John hurley

    I might consider how we could have a progressive Brexit if Labour had won the election. But we didn’t and now we are in the hands of megalomaniacs without a majority who want to destroy democracy and complete their neo liberal global capitalist agenda whilst keeping their project hidden by fanning the flames of nationalism for the masses. Anything else is pie in the sky so why would I see hope in Brexit.

  5. Posted by Tony Weekes

    This phrase “the democratic will of the people” (alternatively, “the democratic decision”) is reinforcing the view that democracy and majoritarianism are the same thing. Shame on you for this!

    The question, as posed, is not answerable. “Brexit”, as presently described/defined by the British government’s incoherent fumbling and bungling, means nothing at all. The story, as it emerges, is of one train wreck after another.

    We forget, also, that the EU has actually done some good work in setting standards for such things as waste disposal, water quality, … and so on. What has set the European project in the wrong direction – particularly since the financial crisis of 2008 – is a dogmatic neoliberalism, causing grief to people in southern Europe in particular. What is need is reform of the EU, something to which Britain might have been able to contribute – although we’d need less stupid politicians and their advisers than seem ti be available.

  6. Posted by Robert Ilson

    What to Do about EU
    RF Ilson

    The EU is profoundly undemocratic. When negotiating Brexit, we should therefore ask for :-
    1) The direct election of European Commissioners ;
    2) The empowerment of the European Parliament to initiate legislation and to rescind existing legislation ;
    3) The admission of members of the public to sessions of the European Parliament : to my amazement, it appears that the public are banned from its sessions ;
    4) The re-naming of the European Union as the New European Union.
    If these changes are rejected, we should implement Brexit as planned.
    If these changes are adopted, the (old) EU should be declared replaced by the New EU. All present members of the old EU automatically become members of the New EU — including the UK. Since the former old EU no longer exists, there is no need to secede from it : Brexit has been accomplished. However, in the interest of democracy, UK membership of the New EU should be ratified either by Parliament or by another Referendum.
    It is possible, of course, that the UK’s membership of the New EU will be democratically rejected. In that case we must proceed to withdraw from it.
    But I hope that a genuinely democratic New EU will be acceptable to the people of the UK and to the other members of the former old EU.

    Robert Ilson
    tel : 020-7-722-3841

  7. Posted by trevor fisher

    seeing the European project as an optional extra ignores both the underlying drive for co-operation against conflict and the lessons of the two wars. We want European unity to prevent divisive and irrational hatreds and wars. Enough of that in the C20th.

    It is telling that xenophobia and racism are rampant, that the fascists support Brexit, and that when the risks to Gibraltar were highlighted the Brexit response was to offer war.

    There is no progressive Brexit any more than there is progressive xenophobis, progressive racism or progressive war. We have had the longest peace in western Europe since 1945 since the end of the wars of the Spanish succession. We have had enough of hating the foreigner, and fighting to kill our neighbours. As Harold Macmillan said, jaw jaw is better than war war. Brexit is divisive, racist and aids the growth of a brutal right wing with parallels to the far right of the 1930s,

    Compass failed to campaign in the referendum. it is time to understand what the hard right want. The EU is not perfect and needs reform, but those who want brexit are lining up with Trump, Farage and the people who threaten violence to anti brexiteers. this is a fight against a return to the 1930s.

    Trevor Fisher.

  8. Posted by Leo Aylen

    It is absurd of Jon Bloomfield to talk of the “democratic decision “ for Brexit.
    1.It is insane for a nation to change its constitution by a straight majority vote; two thirds majority is the normal agreed proportion of votes.
    2.The referendum result was hi-jacked by the Faragists (and very probably won by the Johnson lie about the £350 million a week for the NHS).
    3.Given the rigidity of British political parties, and the fact that nearly always in recent history the choice facing the electorate is one between two rigid political parties. I support the idea of more government by referendum. But entrusting the first decision for Brexit to the population as a whole requires us to insist that once what is involved in the final Brexit decision on whether to go ahead this decision also is entrusted to the population as a whole. That might be the beginnings of democracy. What we have now is a travesty.

  9. Posted by Gerald Holtham

    Jon Bloomfield is right in almost every particular. Of course it would be better to have stayed in the EU and worked constructively for its reform. No use worrying over sunk costs and spilt milk. We are unlikely to be able to restore membership on the favourable terms we had and the attempt to do so would be seen as a national humiliation by most of the electorate. We have to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. His programme is the correct one. We stay in the EEA and the single market permanently. We stay in the customs union during an interim period to protect the Irish border. In the longer run we would be out of it and out of the Common Agricultural Policy. We would remain in Euratom, Research agreements and Erasmus and Europol. Since we are not in the Euro we retain full control of macroeconomic policy, for what that is worth and we can nationalise railways if we want to by the simple expedient of accepting the public tender for franchises. Anyone who knows the first thing about business or economics knows the alternatives are crackers.

  10. Posted by Phil Beyer

    Extending the Article 50 deadline. Phil Beyer
    I agree with Jon Bloomfield that “for the moment the crucial issue is to make the case for a soft Brexit”. No one knows what the outcome of the negotiations will be but most people including many Remainers support the principle of making every effort to seek a positive agreement that respects the result of the referendum.
    I also agree with Jon that “the starting point should be that ALL options are on the table”. I would argue that the only way we can keep all options on the table is by securing an extension of the Article 50 deadline for a further three years.
    “The clock is ticking” we are fast approaching a critical moment in our history which will have a profound effect on our relations with our European neighbours and the world in general. The government is seeking a transitional deal to avoid a cliff edge on terms that are totally unacceptable to the EU and have a zero chance of being agreed.
    The government will soon be faced with a choice between conducting a U-turn or facing a revolt of enough of its own MP’s in an attempt to avoid the impending crash.
    This ticking clock was set into motion when the government triggered Article 50 giving notice of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The UK was then faced with the following options:
    (1) Negotiate an original bespoke tailormade deal.

    (2) Seek Membership of the European Economic Area (EEA)known as the Norwegian option.

    (3) Leave without a deal and rely on WTO rules for our trading relationship.
    The government belatedly accepts that all these options will require transitional arrangements if a damaging cliff edge is to be avoided.
    The Labour party is the realistic responsible party recognising that given the governments lack of preparedness and unrealistic negotiating position the UK is now faced with only two stark choices.
    A temporary transitional deal that allows the UK to remain in the Single Market and customs arrangements and abide by the same rules and obligations that currently apply until a long-term deal has been agreed. Or leaving without a deal and trading on WTO rules bedevilled by a thousand unknowns concerning Euratom, security, immigration, consumer and environmental partner laws and so on.
    However, there is another option. Extending the two-year leaving deadline for a further three years.
    Article 50 allows for an extension to the two-year leaving rule if requested by the member state wanting to leave subject to the approval of the other 27-member states.
    The advantage to the UK exercising this option is the following:
    (1) This avoids the risk of unforeseen legal and political obstacles that could arise regarding the terms of a transitional deal on ending our EU membership.
    (2) We would retain our valuable membership rights as an equal partner on the EU’s decision-making bodies during the “transitional” period which could last several years.
    (3) We would retain the option of renegotiating our current terms of membership which could prove to be the preferred outcome before the extended period expires.

    The Tory Party is incapable of dealing with the consequences of its own decision to delegate such a complex issue as our relationship with the EU and the world via a referendum. This failure could see the Tories out of government for a generation.
    Although I am a passionate Remainer I took the view post referendum that the Labour Party should respect the decision to leave the EU and support a genuine effort to seek an agreement to leave that was not likely to lead to significant long-term damage to the UK. We should go to the wire to achieve a good outcome but we should keep as many options open to us as possible in case such an outcome proves impossible.

  11. Posted by Martin Yarnit

    A persuasive piece that could make more of the hegemonic rewards of the case. But a lot depends on the ability and willingness of the labour leadership to advocate convincingly EU reform and regulation of capital and labour flows.

  12. Posted by Dave Brown

    A useful perspective on migration. The problem is low pay and poor conditions caused mainly by a lack of collective bargaining power in the affected industries not immigration. With a clear policy on fighting for Trade Union rights and rebalancing the economy away from the power of unscupulous employers a mandate could be achieved for a left alternative. Hope has to be given to those who voted leave as a reaction against a system that is not working for them. The Labour Party manifesto for the last election set out many of the necessary policies. Together with clear commitment to remain within the European Economic Area perhaps through EFTA membership a clear alternative to the present shambles of a government could be presented.