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Saturday, July 01, 2017
From EU fans to Hard Brexiteers in just over a year
In February last year, Labour on Gateshead Council moved the following motion:
“Council notes the upcoming referendum on our membership of the European Union, which will occur before 2017 but which could be as early as June 2016.
Council welcomes the benefits that Gateshead residents receive from UK membership of the European Union, in particular:
Investment in the North East
Protecting consumer and workers’ rights
Supporting peace and security in Europe
Improvements to the environment
Council notes, with concern, the risks involved in leaving the European Union and the impact that leaving would have on jobs and investment, as well as social and consumer rights.
Council requests that the Chief Executive explores ways in which the Council, working with partners, can further promote European investment in local projects, organisations and businesses.”
The Lib Dem group supported the motion. Then came the Brexit referendum result in June 2016. Move forward to February 2017 and Gateshead debated the following Lib Dem motion:
“This Council notes the results of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016. This Council further notes that many leading supporters of the leave campaign backed calls for the UK to remain in the single market, even if there was a decision to leave the EU. Furthermore, this council notes that proposals to withdraw from the single market were not included in the referendum question.
This Council notes that significant numbers of Gateshead’s residents are employed by businesses that trade directly with the single market.
This Council calls on the Government to negotiate to keep the UK in the single market and calls on Gateshead MPs to oppose the triggering of Article 50 in Parliament until assurances are given that the Government will negotiate for the country to remain in it.”
Labour voted against. The journey towards hard Brexit was underway. And then last week, new Labour MP for Blaydon and still a councillor in Gateshead, Liz Twist, abstained on the amendment to the Queen's Speech. Her literature had avoided any mention of Brexit during the election. The only mention of Brexit that I am aware of made by her during the campaign was at the Rowlands Gill hustings when I actually put the point to her that she had said nothing on the issue. Her answer still threw no light on her position. It was a clear as mud.
Nevertheless, no matter how much mud under which Liz, and indeed the rest of the Labour Party in Gateshead, attempts to their obscure views on Brexit, it is clear that the positions held by Labour and Conservatives nationally are almost identical. And the local Labour party appears now to be following this hard Brexit lead.