On Monday the 28th January 2019, Lewisham Deptford CLP hosted an evening to discuss Labour’s Brexit strategy with key advocates for both Remain and ‘Lexit’ positions. With over 150 members and residents packing out Deptford Lounge on a Monday evening, there was clearly a strong appetite to discuss how Labour moves forward in the crucial weeks ahead. Chairing the debate, the CLP’s Political Education Officer Kyla Sankey opened up proceedings before the panellists each gave their opening remarks.
“Whatever your views on Brexit, the results of the referendum have shown there is a real need for deeper dialogue on some crucial issues for our country– from migration, democracy and national identity to trade and regulation. With the massive surge in membership in the Labour party in the last years, it is crucial that we provide a space for local communities to come together and have these conversations. The idea of tonight’s event is to develop shared understandings and empower our members to discuss these issues with our families, in our communities and on doorsteps.”
Kyla Sankey, Political Education Officer
First up was former General Secretary of the Communications Workers’ Union Billy Hayes. Hayes took a strong pro-worker position arguing that remaining within the European Union would best protect people’s rights at work.
“Leaving Europe was bad in 2016 and it’s bad now. It is dangerous for working people. It’s easy to say you’re for internationalism but the fact is that after the 29th of March, freedom of movement will end. There’s 3.5 million people living in this country that don’t know whether they will still have the same rights after the 29th. We should have an extraordinary party conference to determine our brexit strategy.”
Billy Hayes, Former General Secretary of Communication Workers’ Union
Following Hayes, Kelly Rogers from Labour for Socialist Europe made the point that leaving Europe from the Left was not an option.
“Making socialism happen isn’t just about navigating the rules from above but the ground up. We need a left that is internationalist. Brexit is imperialist nostalgia and is being driven by the right. This moment that we’re in represents a huge threat to the Corbyn project. Labour’s position is Norway or a customs union – that’s just a watered down version of Tory brexit. “Lexit” doesn’t exist.”
Kelly Rogers, Labour for Socialist Europe
The first “Lexit” argument was made by former Syriza MP and SOAS Professor Costas Lapavitsas. His new book ‘The left case against the EU’ sets out why a remain and reform position is futile.
“We must definancialise the economy and we need a strong investment programme. We need nationalisation in transport, energy and water. To bring that about we need a National Investment Bank. Can this be done in the EU? It is impossible. Whilst you can have nationalisation in the European Union, these nationalised companies will have to compete with private companies. The EU rules of state aid and public procurement are far too restrictive. A radical Labour government would be met with total hostility.”
Costas Lapavitsas, SOAS
Adding to the case against the European Union was IPPR research fellow and New Statesman contributor, Grace Blakeley.
“Lexit rests on 2 pillars: State aid and ending capital mobility. Capital mobility is the structural factor that underlies neoliberalism. Financial globalisation has seen the rise of massive banks that were largely responsible for the 2008 crisis. Capital mobility has opened up markets in Africa but extracted capital from those countries and into the city of london. This has decimated the global south. There is a strong internationalist case for ending capital mobility.”
Grace Blakeley, IPPR
Completing the panel was Andrew Lewin from Remain Labour who made the business case for staying in Europe.
“Jobs are at risk if we leave the single market. If we shut down freedom of movement we will lose a lot of the skill and talent that is making london one of the most dynamic and innovative cities in the world. The case to remain in the EU is about the country we want to be. Brexit in any form will make our country more insular and will be a victory for little Englanders and Nigel Farage. Labour policy needs to move on to backing a people’s vote and campaign to remain.”
Andrew Lewin, Remain Labour
The audience then broke out into groups to discuss the points made and share their feelings and concerns on Labour’s brexit policy with one another.
The panel then took questions from the audience as a lively and engaging debate continued.
The evening drew to a close with many discussions continuing in Deptford’s great many drinking establishments. Whilst many are still divided on how best Labour should tackle Brexit, the exchanges were constructive and demonstrated the CLP’s ability to put together a welcoming and inclusive forum for comradely debate.
Photo credit: Sophia Mangera