We have a new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson won the support of Conservative Party members – who represent a tiny fraction of the British people, mainly the wealthiest. We also have a new Cabinet, made up of those MPs who have voted against their own Party Leader when it was Theresa May, or who changed their minds early enough to convince Johnson that they were members of his fan club. Several new Cabinet Ministers are now saying very different things from a few weeks ago – but then so is Johnson. How can we trust a government full of people who change their minds just to get a job?
So what can we expect from this “new” Government? Can we expect a new and different deal with the European Union? The EU says “no”. The Parliamentary arithmetic says “no”. But most importantly, the facts on the ground say “no”.
People get very hung up on the so-called Irish “back-stop”, but the reason we needed it wasn’t because some European bureaucrat dreamt it up – it was because there was no other way to have different taxes and customs on either side of the Irish Border unless we built a continuous fence. Labour’s answer was to have a permanent single market and customs union, so that things would have been the same on both sides of the border – then we wouldn’t have needed a back-stop. But Johnson and his supporters have rejected both the customs union and the back-stop. That means a hard border with a return to smuggling, to criminal gangs enriching the paramilitaries, and to more violence. But the Conservative Party members who voted for Johnson made it clear in a poll that they didn’t mind if Northern Ireland was driven into poverty, just so long as they get Brexit on October 31st.
Scottish residents voted to stay in the European Union. With its own unique brand of hypocrisy, the Sun in England claims that Johnson will take us into a bright new era of prosperity, while at the same time the Scottish Sun says a no-deal Brexit will be an economic disaster. I think telling two different groups of people completely opposite things amounts to lying, don’t you? Anyway, a no-deal Brexit is likely to lead to Scotland leaving the United Kingdom – but the Conservatives who voted for Johnson said they didn’t mind if the UK was broken up, so long as we leave the EU on October 31st.
The Conservatives who voted for Johnson do not represent the people of this country. Most of them have not had to struggle to pay their rent or their mortgage. Most of them have retired from well-paid jobs with big pensions. Many of them have shares and other investments squirrelled away in tax havens. Jacob Rees Mogg allegedly “earned” over £7 million on his investments since the Referendum, and has moved the investments to the Republic of Ireland so that he can safeguard his money. It’s the farmers, and dock-workers, and insurance workers, and teachers and nurses and police officers and all the rest of us who depend on Britain having an economy that can produce things to sell and have a market to sell them into – we’re the ones who will suffer if Johnson takes us over a no-deal Brexit cliff. The people who elected Johnson stated that they don’t care whether a no-deal Brexit ruins this country and throws millions of people out of work, just so long as we leave on October 31st.
Johnson has a way with words – but there is nothing behind his words. We cannot eat words, we cannot have our health or the safety of our streets protected by words, we cannot build houses with words. We know what we want – more homes, more teachers, more doctors and nurses, better-paid and more productive jobs. We want the investment in clean energy and more sustainable transport that will help to halt the Climate Change emergency. We want a more peaceful and productive world where people are not driven to leave their countries to escape civil war and persecution. None of Johnson’s words will achieve any of that.
A no-deal Brexit will make all the good things a Labour government would want to do far more difficult, if not impossible. That is why I, and my Labour colleagues, will do everything we possibly can to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31st. And if, despite our best efforts, Johnson takes us over that cliff, then we will do everything we can to try to heal the self-inflicted wounds that will result.