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TUC 2018 We believe Brexit would be cat-nip to the alt-right

MANUEL CORTES warns of the dangers of a Tory Brexit

COMRADES, there is a whiff of progressive revolt in the air. Not of the Tony Blair variety. He, and his unnecessary attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are just progressively more revolting. 

No, the real progress is coming from our class which is galvanising against the alt-right’s Brexit baby. 

Opinion poll after opinion poll now show voters wanting a safety valve attached to the Tory Brexit process to stop a no-deal economic disaster and a regulations bonfire. 

But it’s not just the opinion polls that matter. Our Tory enemies are feeling the heat too. Justine Greening was last week acting as a latter-day dead sheep when she denounced Brexit as “more unpopular than the poll tax.” May, chequered by her own Chequers bad judgement, is completely finished. 

My union has long argued that Brexit should be stayed. Not because we had any illusions in the EU as a socialist nirvana. But because imperfect as it is, it offers workers better rights and protection than any Tory government ever would. 

As a union, we are not in business of giving what we hold away without a fight. We also believe Brexit would be cat-nip to the alt-right. And we have no intention of sharing that litter tray. 

So I am extremely heartened other unions are joining with mine to win congress’s support towards clearing the way for the terms of Brexit to be signed off by a popular vote. 

I anticipate that this week’s TUC will raise the standard of our Tory Brexit counter-offensive. Fighting to take back control from May is now the route to a general election. 

The TUC’s big guns can create the terrain on which our party can defeat the government over the terms of Brexit. This will bring the Tories down. That general election will be Labour’s for the taking. 

Taking back control of our NHS, our kids’ education, our railways and our utilities are our top priorities. But to get them, an incoming Labour government’s first job will be to stop the ticking Brexit clock before the time bomb explodes on March 30 2019. 

Congress this week can give our party a strong mandate to seek an extension to Article 50. Given the next European elections are due in May 2019, exploring how to extend Article 50 to at least the end of 2023 — roughly the next time Europe goes to the polls — is a must. 

Labour negotiators must be afforded a reasonable period in which to recalibrate our relationship with Europe. 

This time frame chimes with Corbyn’s call for a transition period of at least five years. It also dovetails with the seven years we gave ourselves to transition into the European Economic Community, as it was then. 

We know from the Tories’ failure to negotiate anything acceptable to the British people over the last two years that we need more time. So revoking May’s shotgun divorce deadline is the elegant and simple solution open to Labour in the high likelihood a general election will come our way by March.  

The Tories are taking Britain on a fear and loathing suicide mission. Labour can offer our country a political strategy from the suicide prevention charity, the Samaritans. 

They always respect the freedom of choice a person has to take their own life. But by talking to them, their counsellors hope to offer a fresh perspective on the future. 

Labour has always respected voters’ 2016 referendum decision. Of course, that happened before Corbyn’s Manifesto For the Many brought a fresh perspective to British politics. 

He and it have given hope to millions that the everyday austerity they have endured for far too long can end. To quote the Samaritans, “Given the time and space to talk things through, you can find a way through your problems.” 

We really need the Tories’ deeply damaging nuclear Leave option like we win a hole in our head. Jeremy is a great advocate of negotiated political settlements. His method is exactly the approach now needed with the EU. 

Walking away and settling into a nationalist fervour is what the Tories do, but it isn’t any part of our internationalist DNA. The battle to save Britain from Tory Brexit begins in earnest here in Manchester today. Let it finish in a government of the people for the people led by Corbyn. Arise! 

Manuel Cortes is general secretary of the TSSA.


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