The most common feeling among progressives at the moment is despair – at Donald Trump, at Brexit, at the left’s own failures. And after this week, that feeling is stronger than ever.
But not only is it pointless to be demoralised about Hard Brexit, it’s also wrong. There is a way out, and with a mixture of determination, mobilisation and an intelligent strategy, we will find it.
We should be honest and sober about what is happening, but there there is plenty of hope. Here’s why.
What just happened?
Article 50 has passed through the House of Commons by 494 votes to 122, after a week of debate. It will now pass onto the House of Lords, and after that it will become law. This means that, in effect, the government will soon have the legal right to trigger Article 50. The vote wasn’t close because Labour voted for the Bill, despite losing all of its amendments.
What about all those amendments?
During the debate, MPs voted on dozens of amendments which would have guaranteed the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK, as well as a range of workers’ rights and environmental protections. Another Europe lobbied around a number of these. None of the amendments passed, so none of these rights are guaranteed.
And was there a big concession from the government?
No, there wasn’t. During the course of the debate, the government agreed that parliament would get a vote on a Brexit deal before it is concluded. This is meaningless, because when this vote happens MPs will have a gun to their heads – either they accept the government’s deal or the UK gets no deal and crashes out of the EU anyway.
The triggering of Article 50 provided a great opportunity for Labour and other opposition parties to exert parliamentary leverage over the Brexit deal in order to safeguard basic rights and freedoms. That opportunity has been missed.
There is still hope – lots of it
With a Tory majority, we were always unlikely to win much with parliamentary lobbying. Now, with the Article 50 vote gone, there is all to play for in fighting for the progressive elements of EU membership. We identify those as workers’ rights, environmental protections, free movement, human rights, innovation and science and education funding.
On a range of these issues, the right wing consensus is under attack – and it is our responsibility to make sure that it breaks. Together with allies, we’ve launched the Alliance for Free Movement, which will be launching properly next month, and momentum behind it is increasing. With MPs having voted down guarantees for EU nationals’ rights after Brexit, this will be top of the agenda in the run up to the 20th February day of action organised by One Day Without Us.
Crucially, we need to have an impact on what happens next in parliament. The government will soon be introducing the Great Repeal Bill – a piece of legislation that is ostensibly designed to move EU law into British law. But in practice, it will give government ministers Henry VIII-style powers to strip us of environmental protections, workers’ rights and human rights without a vote in parliament. We will pull the Bill apart and build a coalition to safeguard these protections.
A movement is building
The past two weeks have witnessed the growth of a massive new movement. At barely a day’s notice, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose Donald Trump’s state visit. Locally and nationally, Another Europe is Possible has been at the heart of co-ordinating this.
This new movement isn’t just about Donald Trump’s muslim ban or even about Theresa May’s disgraceful complicity in his actions. It’s about holding up a mirror to our own society – to the appalling way that Britain treats migrants and marginalised communities. Trump and Brexit are two sides of the same coin – and to counter it, we need a radical and progressive alternative.
The new Stop Trump coalition could provide a focal point that shifts the national debate at this critical juncture. Be a part of it – sign up to support it here, and get involved with our day of action on February 20th for migrants, co-organised with One Day Without Us.
Getting depressed is what Theresa May, Donald Trump and Paul Nuttall want you to do.
10th February 2017