My update on Brexit ahead of the European Elections
Last weekend Tommy Robinson and some of his supporters came to Oldham in a bid to spread their message of fear, hate and blame. Our country’s respect for freedom of speech is enshrined in law, so it was right that the Police allowed this event to take place. But there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression – our laws prevent language and behaviour that is hateful, whether that’s directed at people of different races, religions or colour.
Increasingly women, disabled people and gay people are also being targeted, so the Law Commission is looking at recommendations to update groups that should be protected from this hate. And of course it’s not just hate speech that is said to someone’s face. These laws apply to its use on social media too. I would strongly urge people to think before they post a message on social media or like or share a post. Where has it come from? Is it a credible source? Is it hateful? How would you feel if that was being said about you?
There is much misinformation and even ‘fake news’ about what happened in Limeside last Saturday. According to the Police, a counter protest made up of people from mainly outside of Oldham were intent on demonstrating against Tommy Robinson. Again this was entirely legal. However what was unacceptable was the throwing of fireworks which injured one officer and caused concern from residents. Video footage is being examined by the Police and I would urge anyone to send photographs or videos directly to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or any other evidence they may have.
Finally, on 23rd May we go to the polls to vote in the European Elections. These were the elections we never thought we were going to have. We thought Brexit would be sorted. I feel as frustrated as you at where we are and can only apologise. However, we are where we are.
I would urge you to reject the messages from the far right who want to divide our country. Their manifestos (if they have one) offer no vision other than to isolate us from Europe, our nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner. The promises of some utopia once we leave the EU have been roundly rejected by all credible analysts. The so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ has been shown to be a lie by several reputable sources – there will be no £350m a week for the NHS.
Common sense suggests that if a country is having to replicate different organisations/agencies and the functions that were once undertaken on behalf of the 28 countries that make up the EU, whether that’s on security or nuclear energy, there are going to be significant costs to that country with the loss of this critical mass.
Suggesting that ‘leaving under WTO terms’ is a credible option is a fallacy. Given that our current tariff arrangements with the WTO are via the EU itself we would need to agree what our own tariffs would be. To date they haven’t been agreed. The economic analyses I have read indicates that WTO arrangements would see the economy shrink by up to 10% compared to the current state and for areas like Oldham it would be much worse.
Some say leaving on WTO terms under article 24 is an option, however, legal opinion doesn’t support this.
‘No deal’ means that many of those laws that govern our interaction with the EU will cease to apply to us. If Britain crashes out of the EU without a withdrawal deal, the EU has made it clear that future trade arrangements are not the priority. This would mean increased tariffs for UK producers, a hard border in Northern Ireland, new customs arrangements, inadequate arrangements for our service sector and a breakdown in cooperation with EU member states in criminal justice.
But for some parties of the right, the offer is even worse – a targeted message of anger and hate. They do more than just suggest that your problems will be solved if we ‘sort out’ a group of people. I don’t need to remind you that that was the message used in the 1930s by the Nazis and other fascists. I strongly urge you to reject them and their hate.
While Parliament goes through the Brexit process, we need Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are going to do their best for the UK, people who are going to respect and represent our British values of democracy, tolerance and respect. Labour will represent these values and fight for workers’ rights, enhance environmental standards to avert the climate emergency we’re facing, and protect our security whether from terror threats or infectious diseases.