BRITAIN has never felt as divided, confused and chaotic as it does today. As MPs representing two diverse constituencies 200 miles apart, we hear daily the anxious uncertainty that has become the hallmark of Johnson’s Britain.
This has not happened by accident. The Prime Minister, in lieu of any real progress in Brussels or any definitive ideas on how to resolve the Brexit deadlock, has resorted instead to whipping up hatred and division, creating an ‘us and them’ narrative, casting as ‘them’ anyone who could be demonised as outsiders; the Europeans, immigrants, politicians or just Remain voters. It is deeply irresponsible.
Working in the Shadow Foreign Office team, we have seen close up the fallibility of the current Prime Minister. We have never shadowed someone so reckless, whose carelessness and contempt for the position he held for two years, brought shame on our nation and cost Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe a doubling of her jail sentence in Iran.
However, Johnson isn’t alone, or even particularly original. We spend every day dealing with issues from across the globe and we see from that he is just one of many so-called ‘strong man politicians’, using the same tactics in each of their countries to sow division, whip up resentments and obtain power in the wreckage.
But it does not have to be this way. Every day, we meet wonderful people from all backgrounds, cultures and ages who long for unity and an end to the Brexit crisis.
We are clear that the only way to avoid another 10 years of endless discussion and hand wringing on this issue, is to put the decision back to the British people with an option to remain in the European Union.
Remaining within the EU would allow an incoming Labour government to not only finally address the real issues facing people every day in the UK, but also unleash the magnificent potential of the United Kingdom to once again lead on the world stage.
We can tackle the great existential global problems of poverty and climate change, not as a cut off island in the north Atlantic, but as a leader in a family of nations. Our Labour values are international values and it is only as internationalists that we can create real and lasting change at home.
To get there, we must elect a Labour government. While we both voiced our concerns about Labour’s ambiguity going into the European elections in May, it is now clear that only Labour are offering a fair, workable and democratic path to remain. The Conservatives will almost certainly go into an election campaign with No Deal as a policy.
There are obvious political benefits for them in doing so, namely allowing for a non-aggression pact with the Brexit Party, but there is no democratic mandate for No Deal.
General election campaigns, due to their ‘general’ nature, do not provide a sufficient mandate for a constitutional decision of this scale. This is particularly true as it is unlikely that anyone would win a General Election with more than 50 per cent of the vote.
The same can be said for the Liberal Democrat policy of revoking Article 50 without a referendum. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, described this as ‘arrogant’.
We would go further; this is a cynical attempt to retain their brand as ‘the most remain party’ without any due consideration for the potential impact of such a policy.
Even putting it on the table does little to win over the people that we must convince if we are to have a final resolution to this issue. A revoke policy would not only alienate the 17.4 million people that voted to leave, it would serve as a precedent for any future Conservative government to enact Article 50 again, leaving without a deal, with no democratic hoops to jump through.
Our key argument for a final-say referendum is, at its heart, a democratic one. There is no majority for any one leave option, nor is there currently a majority for remain. A Labour government would present a Leave option that everyone could live with, keeping our businesses afloat and our rights intact. This would allow those who still wish to leave the political union to express that wish.
For those like us who wish to remain in the EU, a Labour government provides the clearest path to doing so. We will have the referendum that we have spent so long campaigning for. And make no mistake, we believe that the best future relationship with Europe is the one we currently have, and we will be campaigning, night and day, whatever it takes to keep Britain within the European Union.
This will allow us to finally draw a line under this issue and get on with governing, in the interests of the many not the few.
Emily Thornberry MP is Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and Alex Sobel, the Leeds North West MP, is her Parliamentary Private Secretary.