As I struggled to purchase calamine lotion final week to deal with a toddler with chickenpox, the political silence about what impact leaving the European Union is having on medication provide chains hit exhausting.
This expertise shouldn’t be distinctive. Whether it’s companies overwhelmed with purple tape, care houses lacking employees or rising meals costs, the general public are asking why such difficulties maintain occurring – and discovering that MPs are avoiding giving an trustworthy reply, not to mention an answer. To repair one thing, you first should identify it. And which means getting over the parable that speaking about Europe is code for re-running referendums.
For concern of claiming the flawed factor, many in Labour declare it’s higher to say nothing in any respect about Brexit. But such reticence doesn’t honour those that voted Leave – or Remain. Each needed their vote to imply one thing higher than chaos on the borders or companies in peril. Post-Brexit, there are lots of methods ahead for the UK and the EU – and most don’t finish in a commerce battle as a distraction from a major minister’s private misconduct.
Silence additionally means Boris Johnson will get to outline what – if any – future relationship Britain can have with Europe. Indeed, the extra Labour shies away, the better it’s to misrepresent us as sporting blue berets with gold stars on, singing Ode to Joy and pleading with the EU to take us again.
In 2010, Labour selected to not speak about what Gordon Brown did to avert the monetary disaster. In 2022, voters nonetheless consider Labour “maxed out” the bank card. The notion we had been fiscally irresponsible grew to become a part of British political folklore. Thus George Osborne’s austerity wasn’t confronted till it was too late. Without motion now, any future Labour authorities might be hamstrung by the dogma that “European” means “anti-British” – and our potential to attain social progress might be stunted because of this.
Labour can’t wait till it wins an election to point out how a assured nation can ship for British pursuits by working with our neighbours, not shouting at them. As the appalling scenario in Ukraine reveals, the world strikes shortly. Ukraine’s utility to hitch the EU additionally displays how Johnson’s isolationism makes even much less sense now.
Europe has been a helpful bogeyman in British politics for generations – together with on the left. The paralysis of this authorities in grappling with the Northern Ireland protocol reveals why this can’t be Labour’s default choice. Johnson’s strategy is costing us all. His authorities claims the impression of leaving the EU on meals distribution and costs is negligible. Farmers, retailers and households all know the grim actuality. We can’t resolve the price of dwelling disaster with out revisiting what leaving the only market and customs union has achieved to grocery procuring. Economic development has fallen 4% on the 2016 pattern – each share level representing £9bn in misplaced revenues for very important public providers.
How can it’s truthful that our constituents at the moment are paying extra to feed their households, small companies are struggling to import or export and our youngsters are lacking alternatives, all whereas a political elite nonetheless declare to be “taking back control” – simply not but.
Aneurin Bevan as soon as argued that “silent pain evokes no response”. The similar is true of silent politics. It will harm our nationwide curiosity for generations if hostility concerning the UK working with the EU seeps into public life with out dissent. To be capable of do enterprise with the largest buying and selling block on the earth, stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to Russian aggression and deal with local weather change, terrorism and social injustice, Britain wants us to talk up now. Keeping stumm shouldn’t be in anybody’s curiosity besides Johnson’s.
Stella Creasy is the Labour MP for Walthamstow and chair of the Labour Movement for Europe