Brendan O’Neill

Sadiq Khan’s Brexit stance isn’t ‘brave’

Sadiq Khan's Brexit stance isn't 'brave'
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It’s always good to remind Sadiq Khan that Brexit is more popular in London than he is. Khan loves to play the role of Mayor of Remainia, the political figurehead of this oh-so-clever capital city that can see through the folly of Brexit that those strange inhabitants of Essex, the North and Wales voted for. And yet while it’s true Londoners voted Remain by 59.9 per cent to 40.1 per cent, the fact is more of us voted for Brexit than we did for Khan: 1,513,232 Londoners want to leave the EU, which is 200,000 more than the 1,310,143 who wanted Khan as mayor.

So Brexit was such a massive and popular demand for political change that even in ‘the Remainer city’ of London its supporters comfortably outnumber supporters of the actual mayor. Khan should bear this in mind as he encourages MPs to side with the Lords in their ‘softening’ of Brexit, which he’s currently doing. He should bear in mind that he’s cosying up with peers, who received not a single vote for their place in the Lords, against a political demand that received more votes than anything else in the entire history of this nation.

Khan is calling on MPs to be ‘brave’ and support the Lords’ watering down of Theresa May’s Brexit Bill when it comes back to the Commons in the next couple of weeks. Our unelected peers, in their infinite wisdom, made 15 amendments to this bill that was drawn up by the party of government that 13,669,883 of us voted for in the general election last year. What century is this again? These amendments include keeping Britain in some kind of customs union and even in the European Economic Area, which would effectively mean we’d still be in the Single Market. Let’s ditch the ‘Soft Brexit’ euphemism, shall we. If we stay in a customs union and the Single Market, we stay in the EU. This is Remain by another name. To call it a soft Brexit is a lie. ‘Soft Brexit’ is a slippery phrase designed to make a political sellout look like an act of democracy.

Khan is being highly disingenuous when he speaks of the need for ‘bravery’ among MPs. There would be nothing brave about MPs using the cover of the Lords’ amendments to wound Brexit in a way they wanted to anyway but didn’t have the courage to do off their own bat lest it rile — and it would — their voters. So instead they hide behind the Brexitphobia of our archaic second chamber. Brave? Get a dictionary, Sadiq. This hiding behind the peers has led to the nauseating spectacle of the front bench of the apparently radical Corbyn-led Labour Party supporting 14 of the Lords’ 15 amendments to this pesky Brexit thing — a truly alarming union of pseudo-Reds and well-fed peers that will have every genuine radical of British history spinning in their graves.

The 15th amendment is the one saying Britain should stay in the EEA. This is the one lordly cry against our elected government that Corbyn is unlikely to support — so edgy! — whereas Khan does support it. People are talking this up as a Corbyn v Khan clash. Maybe it is. But fundamentally these two men are in agreement that Brexit must be ‘softened’ — i.e. made into Remain by another name — and that the advice from the dusty, bizarre, archaic second chamber provides the ideal cover through which to pursue this softening. Labour, for all its anti-establishment pretensions, is now the party of Remain, of the status quo, of our Lords’ and Ladies’ bidding.

Indeed, here’s a Brexit-related figure we don’t speak about often enough: five per cent. That is the proportion of Labour MPs who in the referendum in June 2016 voted to leave the EU. Five per cent. As against 52 per cent of the broader electorate. Has there ever been a party so out of touch with ordinary people? That number, five per cent, should haunt Corbyn and Co’s nightmares, because it demonstrates beyond doubt that this self-styled people’s party is about as far from the people as an organisation can get.

We are heading for one of the great political stitch-ups of modern times. Unelected peers providing cover for Brexit-sceptical MPs to water down this thing that millions of us voted for, and a Tory Party so split and confused and afraid of Brussels that it can do little to stand up to this cynical behaviour and assert its democratic authority. What a terrible state of affairs. It will confirm for millions of people that politics really is a fit-up by the powerful and well-connected. Again the question must be posed: is our political class so desperate to stay in the EU that it is willing to sacrifice Britons’ faith in democracy in order to do so?

Written byBrendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked and a columnist for The Australian and The Big Issue.

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