Keir Starmer remains an elitist Remainer
The Labour leader cannot hide his contempt for Brexit and democracy.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has deservedly won a reputation as a spineless, backsliding master of the reverse-ferret, who will change policies and abandon principles at the flick of a quiff, if he thinks it might get him a better media reception in the run-up to the next UK General Election.
However, Starmer’s recent interventions on future relations between a Labour government and the European Union confirm that he is consistent on one issue at least. He remains a staunch Remainer and Brexit-detester. And even more importantly, Starmer remains an anti-democrat who holds the British people in such contempt that he thinks they can be fooled into believing he is not.
Since becoming Labour leader, Starmer has sought to distance his party from its staunchly pro-EU, Remainer outlook (a view still firmly held by most Labour members). He claims that Brexit is ‘safe in his hands’, that he has no ambitions to reopen the debate or to rejoin the EU Single Market or Customs Union.
This is a transparent bid to win back voters in the Leave-supporting former ‘Red Wall’ seats of the north and Midlands, who deserted Labour in droves and backed Boris ‘get Brexit done’ Johnson in the 2019 election. The trouble with such transparent ploys, however, is that we can see through them.
Does Starmer really imagine that we will forget his role as Labour’s shadow (anti-)Brexit secretary under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership? He voted against Brexit at every opportunity, and led Labour’s disastrous campaign for a fantasy second referendum – the only point of which would have been to overturn the real one that Leave won in 2016. At the 2019 election, Starmer promised that Labour would do a revised deal with the EU, put it in a referendum alongside the option to reverse Brexit altogether, and then campaign for voters to reject Labour’s own deal and back Remain. And they wonder why they lost so heavily…
Four years on, with another election looming and Labour well ahead in the polls, Starmer seems to want to pretend that none of that really happened; or perhaps that it wasn’t his fault because a big boy did it and ran away. Instead, Sir Keir of the Second Referendum would have us believe that he can now be trusted to make a better job of Brexit than the hopeless Tory government. Yet every time Starmer sticks his toe back into choppy Brexit waters, he is quickly revealed as a still-floundering Remainer well out of his depth.
Last week, Starmer put himself forward as the man to take back control of the illegal-migration crisis on Britain’s southern coast. His plan would involve accepting a quota of migrants from the EU. As Fraser Myers pointed out on spiked, since no UK government has ever accepted such a quota before, this would mean Britain ceding even more control of our borders to Brussels than when we were a member of the bloc. It would also mean the UK bending the knee to the Eurocracy rather more deeply than existing EU members, such as Hungary and Poland, who have refused to accept Brussels’ new migrant-quota scheme (which goes under the typically Orwellian-sounding title of ‘compulsory solidarity’). When Labour was called out for this crackpot scheme, party spokespeople tried to claim it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest that Starmer had ever mentioned it.
This week, however, Starmer has shown his true, EU-star-spangled colours again. First the Labour leader told the Financial Times that he was determined to get Britain ‘a much better deal’ with the EU when the Trade and Cooperation Agreement comes up for review in 2025. ‘Almost everyone recognises the deal Johnson struck is not a good deal’, he told the UK’s business bible, ‘it’s far too thin’. Then Starmer jetted to Paris and the Hague, enjoying a (brief) photo opportunity with EU-phoric French president Emmanuel Macron. It then emerged he had told fellow centre-left politicians at a meeting in Canada that actually ‘we don’t want to diverge’ from EU rules and regulations.
The Labour leader’s Euro-crusade coincided with the release of a think-tank report on EU reform, sponsored by the German and French governments, which among much else suggested that the UK could soon be offered ‘associate membership’ of the bloc. That would involve us paying billions into the EU budget, in return for access to the Single Market, but without having any say over EU policy. Which sounds like an ideal arrangement from Brussels’ point of view – and would no doubt also suit Labour, if it thought it could get away with doing such a cosy deal without having to run the risk of holding a referendum.
Various commentators have suggested that there is a lack of enthusiasm for reopening old discussions and wounds among European leaders still suffering from ‘Brexit fatigue’. But for us in the UK, that seems largely besides the point. What matters more is surely what these clumsy manoeuvrings reveal about Starmer and his Blairite-lite Labour Party.
Despite protestations to the contrary, Sir Keir remains an elitist Remainer of the first and worst order. It is not just that this pallid former director of public prosecutions cannot suppress his natural affinity with the technocrats of Brussels and judges of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The flipside is that this north-London lawyer cannot disguise his deep-seated contempt for the democratic will of the mass of the British people, whom he apparently views as dim voting fodder to be tricked into voting Labour under any false pretensions deemed necessary.
It is of course true that Boris Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal agreement was ‘not a good deal’ for Britain. But for the opposite reasons than Starmer believes. It made far too many concessions to the EU, on everything from fishing and financial services to Northern Ireland and, crucially, the continued role of European judges in UK affairs. We have been left living with a sort of ‘zombie Brexit’; we are formally independent, but in practice, the pathetic Tories have even failed to ‘diverge’ from Brussels by repealing the EU laws that clog up the UK statute book.
The hard truth confirmed by Starmer’s latest Euro-shenanigans is that, on such a key issue as Brexit and its many implications, a Labour government could well be even worse than the execrable Conservatives. Especially if they end up in coalition with the misnamed Liberal ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ Democrats. What is the price of democracy at the next election?
Mick Hume is a spiked columnist. The concise and abridged edition of his book, Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?, is published by William Collins.
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