Last night the EU withdrawal bill cleared the House of Commons after MPs approved the bill, which transposes EU law into UK law, by 324 to 295. With Labour’s Brexit position as confusing as ever (just watch Jeremy Corbyn’s Peston interview on the/a customs union), readers will be interested to know that the party opposed the bill’s third reading. 243 Labour MPs voted to block the bill, with only a handful – Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer – defying party orders.
The Conservatives have been quick to go on the offensive and claim this shows Labour is trying to stop Brexit. Launching attack ads on social media – including one video with new party chairman Brandon Lewis claiming this shows Labour do not respect the national interest or wish for a smooth and orderly Brexit.
Labour are putting politics above the national interest. Only the Conservatives will deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit. pic.twitter.com/lNS5mASSut
— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) January 17, 2018
Likewise, CCHQ have gone on the attack – urging voters to sign a letter telling Corbyn to respect the result. Helpfully, this will also assist the party with email harvesting for future campaigning.
Was your MP amongst the 243 Labour MPs who voted to try and block the EU Withdrawal Bill which is essential for a smooth Brexit?
Tell them they must put the national interest above playing politics and respect the referendum result: https://t.co/4jL4XTwpP5
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) January 17, 2018
As I’ve written before, Labour’s clever* Brexit position – as confusing as it is – has so far proved good opposition politics. Their best of both worlds position – ‘have your cake and eat it 2.0’ – of being vague works rather well and it has allowed the party to keep many Brexiteers and Remainers on side. Every time one of the shadow cabinet gives an interview, hacks and politicos try and work out what it means in technical terms – even though the people saying it aren’t sure themselves. It might be intentional, it might be incompetent – either way fudging the party’s position is more likely to win votes than the alternative.
As last night’s vote shows, it’s the party’s most clear cut moves that prove the most difficult. The decision to vote down the third reading is much easier for the Tories to attack than slightly contradictory statements. This suggests that Labour’s clever* Brexit strategy is running on borrowed time.
*may not be intentional