“Britain's future is outside the EU. Not in the single market, not in the customs union, not with a return to freedom of movement. Those arguments are in the past, where they belong”. Those arguments are not in the past, and thus Starmer’s first problem. Then comes the pointless EU-bashing.
“There is no point pretending everything is working fine. The paper-thin Tory deal has stifled Britain's potential and hugely weighted trade terms towards the EU. Every day it isn't built upon, our European friends and competitors aren't just eating our lunch - they're nicking our dinner money as well”. Very good, Sir Keir. Do you think they don’t speak English in Brussels?
On he goes, talking about criminal gangs, The Boats, and food prices, then claims “Every one of the problems I have outlined can be fixed from outside the EU”. No. Just no. We know how this will play out, and Niall Ó Conghaile has summed up the most likely scenario in a Twitter thread (HERE).
“It'll be positivity and smiles at the start … Then Europe will reiterate its own red lines, which are the same as they were for May, Johnson and the Brexiters … Talks will make little progress … UK press and pols will demand ‘flexibility’ from Europe while UKG offers zero flexibility … UK press and pols start lobbing Europhobic bombs. The old tunes like references to Naziism, Soviet dictatorship, woke socialism … Talks will collapse”. There was more.
“UK press, pols and many people will blame Europeans for not giving them what they want to make Brexit great … [what] Starmer is doing [is] ducking the hard conversation about what's wrong with the UK … By promising the undeliverable, he sets the UK on a path to further rancour and intemperate language towards its neighbours (even hostility or worse)”.
Small wonder he prefixes his observations with “The Express interview with Starmer today is quite troubling for anyone who wants the best for the UK or wants better European-UK relations”. The electorate is slowly but inexorably realising that Brexit was a calamitous mistake. He can sound as Brexity as he likes, but the mood is no longer hostile to accepting political reality.
If he doesn’t want to take my words on trust, maybe he will listen to what the last Labour leader to win a General Election, Tony Blair, said in an address to the European Parliament in 2005: “As ever the people are ahead of the politicians. We always think as a political class that people, unconcerned with the daily obsession of politics, may not understand it, may not see its subtleties and its complexities. But, ultimately, people always see politics more clearly than us”. I’ll go further: they see through a false prospectus.
Not even Margaret Thatcher - claimed today as some kind of Brexiteer visionary by many of those bad faith actors who use her name to peddle more of those false prospectuses - made such lame and defeatist admissions as to assert that “Britain’s future is outside the EU”. She said just the opposite.
In her 1988 speech to the College of Europe in Bruges, which Brexiteers are adept at selectively quoting, she said “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.” She had more to say on that subject.
“Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better, appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour”. Starmer’s woeful defeatism does not even try and match Mrs T. His political antenna is way short of that demonstrated by Blair. He fails to grasp post-war reality.
I leave that to one of the great Liberal politicians, Joe Grimond, who said this to the House of Commons in 1960, 63 years ago, as true then as it remains today: “The sad feature is fifteen years ago [in 1945] Britain was at the peak of her power and influence, and the leadership of Europe was hers for the asking. We have thrown it away on grounds that have largely proved wrong”.
Keir Starmer wants to throw it away all over again. Read and weep.
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