Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash
Pressure for the government to extend the Brexit transition period beyond 31 December is growing.
With the deadline for requesting an extension now less than three months away (30 June), it is likely to grow further. The left should do everything we can to amplify that pressure.
The European parliamentary group of the “centre-right” European People’s Party – too moderate for the Tories – has called for the UK to apply for an extension. The EPP is the largest bloc in the European parliament and linked to many EU governments. Its stance is a clear signal that an application for extension would be accepted by the EU.
There is growing speculation in the British press about the issue. The Scottish and Welsh governments have called for an extension, as have a number of bosses’ organisations.
Absurdly, however, there is widespread silence on the left. Despite the impact a hard Brexit following fast in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis would have on workers and the badly-off, both the Labour Party and the trade unions have said nothing.
Asked about the issue by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on his second day as Labour leader, Keir Starmer essentially refused to commit.
The whole left and labour movement, regardless of wider views on Brexit, should demand a serious extension as a basic matter of working-class self-defence. The anti-Brexit left must not be afraid to lead the way.
Labour for a Socialist Europe and Another Europe is Possible are beginning to campaign on this, beginning with a petition and a statement for Labour members and trade unionists.
Public opinion already backs extension
According to polling commissioned by Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate, extending the Brexit transition is backed by: 69% of women and 58% of men; every age group, ranging from 78% of 18-24-year-olds to 52% of over-65s; every region, ranging from 78% of Scotland to 57% of Yorkshire; and every “social grade”, ranging from 69% of “B”s and 68% of “C1”s (non-manual workers) to 57% of “C2”s (manual workers).
65% want the UK to remain a member of the EU’s Early Warning and Response System for medical emergencies; only 12% back the Tories’ desire to leave it.
• For the full polling data, see here