Yesterday I was announced as Labour’s candidate for North of Tyne Mayor. It’s been an invigorating campaign, with so many people involved, campaigning on solid, practical polices that will really make a difference. I’m enthused about getting the message of these policies out to the wider public.
Straight after my acceptance speech, I started getting the message out with a round of interviews with local media. I spoke about my Community Wealth Building policies, the Green New Deal, affordable housing, and building resilience in the face of Brexit. The latter has probably attracted most attention. I’ve been asked many times through the campaign about Brexit, and despite the Mayor having no legal powers to influence the outcome, I’ve given people detailed answers to what I think is a very complex subject. My position is: I voted remain, and I still think remain and reform is the best option, but the country voted leave and I believe in democracy.
As Labour’s candidate for North of Tyne Mayor, I talk to a huge number of people, and almost everyone I speak to – leave or remain – recognises that Brexit is complex and has pros and cons. If elected, my job will be to develop local economic resilience – whatever happens with Brexit – because either way we’re facing serious problems: a global economic slowdown, mounting personal debts, crumbling public services, and climate change.
I voted remain, despite having some reservations about the EU, particularly its agenda towards privatisation, some anti-trade union judgements, and the way Greece has been subjected to intolerable austerity.
But I’m an internationalist, and think remain and reform is the way to go.
The British people voted to leave, and I accept that decision, even though I don’t agree with it. I don’t agree with the decision to elect a minority Tory government either, but I accept it.
So we now need to negotiate a deal that keeps the best aspects of Europe – trade & international cooperation, free movement for citizens – and also gives us some benefits from leaving, whether increased protections against exploiting low paid workers or the freedom to set a different agricultural policy.
At the moment, I haven’t seen such a deal. I don’t believe such a deal will come out of our current Parliament. I don’t think any consensus exists in Parliament for any deal. The only thing Parliament can agree on is that is won’t accept that the current deal (Theresa May’s never-ending backstop) and I believe it would reject a no deal Brexit.
So we should have a General Election. End the situation where the DUP are propping up a hopelessly divided Tory Party, and let a Labour government negotiate a jobs-first Brexit, that guarantees a customs union, protects trade and jobs, rights at work, environmental and consumer standards, and guarantees no hard border in Ireland.
So there it is, my Brexit position. It needs a complex answer, because it’s a complex problem.