OPEN LETTER TO JEREMY CORBYN
PLEDGE TO THE SCOTTISH AND IRISH PEOPLE
The majority in England and Wales voted to leave the European Union whilst the majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. This shows different constituent parts of the UK want a different relationship with Europe. That is why a future Labour government must guarantee that Scotland can hold a referendum on ending the Union with the rest of the UK; and that Northern Ireland can be given the opportunity of ending partition, as the best way to ensure the majority desire to remain part of the European Union.
To: Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party
House of Commons
25 August 2016
The overall result (52%-48%) of the Tory referendum was close. We should not forget that the Tories excluded 1.6 million EU citizens living in the UK from the ballot. They excluded all 16-18 year olds. These exclusions distorted the result in favor of exit. The results, after these exclusions, were that England (53%) and Wales (53%) voted to leave the EU. Scotland (62%) and Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain.
Nevertheless there should be no ‘second’ British referendum to try to overturn these results. It would alienate working class voters who supported exit. It would be a handy stick for UKIP to beat the Labour ‘traitors’. It would further divide the working class to the benefit of the Tories. It would do more damage to a divided working class than facing the full consequences of the result.
In your debate with Owen Smith, you rightly said “a referendum has taken place and we have to recognise that, whatever we feel about it, there is a result from the referendum which we have to work with.” You emphasised that “Labour must accept the result of the referendum”, adding that Labour should “work with other left wing parties to ensure that workers rights are not lost after Brexit”.
It will be a real struggle to defend workers rights after the Tory exit. It will be a real struggle to defend migrant workers’ rights and to prevent even greater chauvinist and racist divisions in our class. This aim will be aided if the democratic views of Scotland and Northern Ireland are fully recognised.
This is not the approach taken by Owen Smith who is seeking to exploit a divided working class for his leadership ambitions. In the Gateshead debate, he said “Britain must stay in the EU”. In the Sunday Express (18 July 2016), he said it would be “very tempting for Labour to ignore the referendum decision if they were to win a general election”. His contempt for how people voted on the EU shows he cannot lead the working class movement is a democratic direction.
Democracy and Self determination
The EU referendum shows a majority in England and Wales want to leave the EU and a majority in Scotland and Ireland (i.e. both a Northern Ireland majority and the rest of Ireland) want to remain. This particular problem will be resolved either by the Crown (Her Majesty’s Government) imposing Brexit on the whole of the UK or by democratic means through the application of national self determination.
In 2014 Scotland voted (55%-45%) to remain in the UK. One major argument used in the Scottish referendum was Scotland would be excluded from the EU if people voted to leave the UK. This has now been turned upside down. Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot remain in the UK and in the EU. As socialists we may have different views on the relative merits of remaining in the UK or the EU, but as democrats we believe the people must be able to decide how they want that contradiction to be resolved by the exercise of self determination.
In the UK sovereignty does not rest with the people but with the ‘Crown-in-Parliament’. This means that Her Majesty’s Government will decide whether to grant a self determination referendum to Scotland. Parliament may be asked to approve it. Theresa May has already rejected a new Border Poll in Northern Ireland. The Scottish and Irish people are to have no rights in this matter.
The Tories are determined to prevent the Scottish and Irish people having their democratic outcome and will throw every obstacle in the way. A Labour government must guarantee that the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland must be able, in consequence of voting to remain in the EU, to hold a referendum on leaving the UK. This would be a proper and most important democratic response to the EU referendum result.
The UK urgently needs a new democratic constitutional settlement, a revolution in democratic practices. Democracy has to be at the heart of the new and growing mass Labour Party. We are therefore calling on you to give greater emphasis on democratic change during your re-election campaign. The Tory referendum on the EU is an opportunity to chart a democratic way out the mess that the Tories have led us into. It starts with Labour politicians in England and Wales recognizing that the Scottish and Northern Irish people have voted to remain in the EU.
Labour Pledge to the Scottish and Irish people
We are calling on you to pledge that any future Labour government you lead will promise and deliver a self determination referendum for the Scottish people and help facilitate one for the Irish people. This should be a Labour Manifesto commitment.
On behalf of the Republican Socialist Alliance