Dr Helen De Cruz on why the Labour-Conservatives Brexit talks were never going to work and why they were doomed from start.
It was inevitable.
Indeed, it is hard to see what would have salvaged these talks.
First, in countries with a tradition of compromise, e.g. Belgium with different coalition governments, it is really hard for parties with differing interests and outlooks to reach a compromise on such a difficult and important issue.
Take Belgium in 2010-2011. Belgium had a massive 541 days without government because they could not agree on structural governmental reforms (to do with the enduring tension between Flemish- and French-speaking people).
Brexit is as important an issue.
But to make matters worse, in the UK, there is no tradition of coalition governments (see continued Lib Dems fallout over this), but rather a long tradition of blaming each other (e.g., blaming austerity on Labour fecklessness), I just did not see how they could compromise now.
Moreover, I see little incentive for Labour to help engineer a situation that will harm the country. Maybe Corbyn believes in a jobs-first Brexit, but if you look at any expert reports there are no such painless job-first Brexits on the table or in the space of possibility.
Then, there is still unicorn/cakeist/sunny upland Brexit, the all gain no pain spectre of severing ties with the EU that brings advantages and virtually no cost.
As long as the Brits don’t face reality and accept that Brexit will bring some pain (not the abstract ‘let’s soldier on’ and ‘Dunkirk spirit’ pain, no, I mean the actual pain of job losses, massive austerity, a shrinking NHS...), then they cannot work to make Brexit happen.
Alas, cakeist Brexit still exists in people’s minds. The latest incarnation is Farage’s Brexit Party. It again lies that Brexit will be relatively painless, or just abstractly painful in this heroic let’s sacrifice stuff (‘but we will still go on holiday in Spain, don’t worry!’) way.
Now, any actual Brexit won’t be fun like that. It will be boring (continued negotiations), or even more boring (continued negotiations after No-Deal hissy fit, unless Britain wants to end up like North Korea). It will bring economic pain. More austerity.
Lots of Leavers believe in cakeist No-Deal Brexit though. So, if Labour helps engineer a real, not so fun, actual Brexit, they will alienate and infuriate not only their Remain voters, but a large chunk of their Leave voters too.
So, it would be politically unwise for Labour to be partially to blame for any Brexit outcome. The main problems are: the lack of a tradition of mutual respect and talks, and the continued spectre of cakeist Brexit.
I was simply never going to work, and that is just from a Labour’s perspective.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.)