Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash
On 26 March, meeting over Zoom, the steering committee of Labour for a Socialist Europe agreed to launch a campaign to extend the Brexit transition period.
There was discussion about how easy it would be for this campaign to get grip, but consensus about the importance of raising a flag and starting to prepare for when the issue pushes itself to the fore. (For L4SE’s initial statement, see bit.ly/extendtransition)
Just three days later (29 March), the Sunday Times reported that, despite “senior sources” saying there was “no way” Boris Johnson would consider a delay, the government is under major pressure on this.
A new poll commissioned by Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate found that 64% want the government to “request an extension to the transition period in order to focus properly on the coronavirus”.
That includes 84% of those who voted Labour last year and 78% of 18-24 year olds, but also 52% of over-65s, 44% of Conservative voters and 19% of Brexit Party voters.
This even though Labour has said essentially nothing about the issue. The Labour-run Welsh government has called for the transition to be extended. So have leadership candidate Lisa Nandy and fellow MPs David Lammy and Wes Streeting. Not, however, the party itself. Not Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell - not Keir Starmer or Rebecca Long-Bailey - nor any of the anti-Brexit left MPs. The unions are also silent.
Even without a strong (or so far, any) labour movement campaign for extension, the Tory leadership may have no option but to do it anyway. But that is not something to be relied on. Many leading Tories have made it clear they do not want to extend, and do not regard the likely consequences of not extending as something to be concerned about.
More likely, and better, that they go for a serious and long extension after an aggressive labour movement campaign.
We should indict the Tories for putting even more lives and livelihoods at risk to satisfy their nationalist dogma. Regardless of wider views on Brexit, the whole labour movement should unite around the demand for extension, as a matter of basic working-class self-defence.
This is urgent: at least in theory, any extension request has to be made by 30 June. We must start building a campaign now, and demand that Labour and the unions take up this fight.