"Labour must be a voice for Britain in the choppy waters that are to come "
Keir Starmer made the case clear during the Brexit Question Time special that there is more to the future of the UK after Brexit than simply economics, understanding that there is more than economics for the vote to leave is the starting point and not the end for Labour.
The vote to leave The EU and the relationship going forward has been dominated by economic forecasts and a larger discussion around trade post-Brexit. What the debate has failed to capture is what leaving the EU means for the issues outside the economy.
As John Maynard Keynes said “in the long run we are all dead”, it is the short-term impact that economists have tried to predict, but no matter how much rigour we find in the analysis, economists cannot guarantee what the economic outcome of Brexit will be. As I write this my belief is that the ship is currently sailing towards an economic slowdown that will be harmful to the UK but I cannot say that this will 100% be the case and nor can anyone else.
What Labour needs to do is to understand that although economics plays an enormous role in our lives and in that of the electorate, we must show that The EU has offered opportunities that have been far more than simply monetary value. The free movement of people is the heralded example and this is something Labour must fight for; The EU has offered citizens of the UK the chance to travel around the continent with few restrictions. The friendships, relationships and experiences of the UK population cannot be understated or given a monetary value.
There are also the serious concerns of making sure we can effectively collaborate with our European partners on issues such as transnational crime and on others such as climate change which are become and will continue to be imperative matter. Here the economic value takes a back seat. The wider diplomatic relationship between the UK and The EU is also one that is outside that of economics but a one that will no doubt have a large impact on the economics, here Labour need to build relationships with The EU and show what collaboration can bring to the UK outside of the EU.
Labour can hold the government to account on the economy but to understand the reasons for the EU vote there needs to be an understanding of why those in areas that were told by the media, economists and politicians that they would be worse off if they voted to leave done exactly that. Areas of the UK that were helped most by The EU voted to leave in what politicians have described as a “vote against their economic self-interest”. Perhaps it is the case that politicians and economists don’t understand self-interest?
What Labour firstly needs to understand if they are to regain the trust of the people is that the reasons for voting to leave were outside of economics. The political debate has become dominated by economics and the debate must be widened. The general public are crying out for an opposition and Labour must step up to the task, lets hold the government to account when Article 50 is triggered and regain the trust of the British people. Labour must be a voice for Britain in the choppy waters that are to come. Brexit may be happening but our future outside of The EU remains a blank canvas.
Ben Pringle is a Young Fabians member. Follow him on twitter at @Bpringle13