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Labour Conference 2018 McDonnell is right to reject a rerun of the EU referendum

SHADOW chancellor John McDonnell’s firm declaration that any new referendum on the European Union should be confined to asking voters’ opinion on any deal or no-deal offered by Theresa May shows respect for both national democracy and party unity.

“We’ll be arguing that it should be a vote on the deal itself and then enable us to go back and do the negotiations,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

McDonnell understands that respecting the June 2016 referendum decision means nothing if it is accompanied by a demand for another referendum to overturn the first.

That’s not respecting a democratic decision. It reflects an EU phenomenon some call a “neverendum” in which voters are directed to try again until they achieve the required answer.

We have seen it across the EU whenever voters have been given a say on a new centralising power for the European corporate-political elite.

Irish voters rebelled twice and were dragooned back to the ballot boxes to correct their mistake.

Their French and Dutch counterparts rejected the Treaty on Establishing an EU Constitution in 2005, resulting in the cancellation of referendums planned in a number of other EU member states.

By then the powers that be were so nervous of another referendum that they cobbled together the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, describing it as merely a tidying-up process whereas, in reality, it comprised most of the defeated constitutional paraphernalia.

Offered up for approval to member states’ governmental or parliamentary elite, without popular ratification, it went through on the nod, leaving EU officialdom and its allies in member-state governments smug but feeding grassroots resentment across the bloc.

Public anger was further nourished by the realisation that the ruling elite in each country had not been coerced by the EU commission in Brussels into imposing “neverendums” or undermining popular decisions by executive action.

The national elites were hand in glove with the supranational body, both in their “there is no alternative” neoliberal policies and their machinations to prevent democratic decision-making.

McDonnell’s recognition that the June 2016 decision was an anti-Establishment vote is still not shared among many in the Labour Party and the trade unions.

They either pray at the altar of a near-forgotten and largely illusory “social Europe” model or accept that the EU has become institutionally neoliberal, but foster the dream that an outfit that began life proclaiming its goal of untrammelled free-market competition across the bloc’s internal borders can be transformed into an enlightened society that prizes solidarity over private profit.

A number of Labour members who adhere to one or other of these mistaken positions took part in the weekend’s People’s Vote march to the Labour Party conference.

But they were not the string-pullers or decision makers behind this “cross-party” initiative, which gathers up the same squalid group of politicians, backed by the same big-business millions, that fought unsuccessfully in our referendum to keep the UK in the EU.

The Chuka Umunnas, Anna Soubrys, Tony Blairs, Peter Mandelsons, Vince Cables, Andrew Adonises and sundry nationalist and greenish politicians, bankrolled by George Soros and other financial interests, are linked by their contempt for democracy and their hostility to Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the socialist policies they champion.

Labour’s conference and broader membership should unite behind the leadership call to reject any Tory-negotiated outcome that fails to protect jobs and living standards and to demand a general election so Corbyn can step forward to negotiate a new relationship with the EU, based on principled acceptance of the vote to leave.

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