We’re leaving the EU one way or another – that much is certain. But it’s far better for students and the UK as a whole if we leave under a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Parliament is in deadlock. No deal has a majority against it and a second referendum would waste time and money just to produce a second Leave vote. Theresa May’s proposed deal received the most humiliating defeat of any government bill in Parliament’s history. The two Prime Ministers with the next largest defeats are Ramsey McDonald in 1924 (166 votes) and James Callaghan in 1979 (89 votes); both subsequently lost a general election. Even after scraping through the confidence vote last week, it’s clear that history, like everything else, is against Mrs May.
We need a socialist Brexit. Corbyn has been a lifelong Eurosceptic, following in the tradition of Tony Benn and Michael Foot, and there is a strong socialist case for leaving the EU. Foot’s 1983 Labour manifesto – often called ‘the longest suicide note in history’ because it was so overtly Left-wing – proposed higher taxation, nuclear disarmament, renationalising public industry, and – would you believe – withdrawal from the European Economic Community.
Whilst that was nearly 40 years ago, the EU today continues to be a neoliberal project that supports banks and multinational corporations above all else. As Grace Blakeley wrote in the New Statesman: ‘it is not possible to implement socialism without a confrontation with capital and its representatives in institutions such as the EU’.
Brexit encouraged racists to come out of the woodwork: in October 2018 the Home Office reported ‘a rise in racially or religiously aggravated offences during the EU Referendum campaign, from April 2016, to a peak in offences after the result, in July 2016.’ But the UK was deeply racist and xenophobic before the referendum, and the Tories had been shamelessly capitalising on this to scapegoat the damage of their austerity policies. As Home Secretary from 2010-16, May announced the ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012, toured vans with ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ billboards through London in 2013, and introduced a ‘Deport first, appeal later’ policy in the Immigration Act 2014. This was extended in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, which won them a majority. With this in mind, it’s evident that May’s Conservative government is completely unfit to negotiate Brexit.
Nine years of Tory austerity have destroyed the UK. Even before Brexit, people were homeless, using food banks, and dying in poverty – all whilst the Tories fanned the flames of xenophobia and racism. Pushing for a general election and a Corbyn-led Brexit would allow for a socialist government that would radically reverse austerity and actively promote a more just and equal society.
Don’t waste time trying to keep the UK in: let’s get the Tories out.