I, like millions of other people who voted to leave the EU, am relieved that Article 50 has finally been triggered. These last nine months have been one hell of a journey, with pro-Brexit politicians trying their utmost to disrupt Brexit, interference from millionaires like Maria Miller and pro-EU campaigners holding demonstrations across the country in an attempt to override democracy.
Thurrock voted Brexit by 73% and I was not surprised after the amount of anti-EU feeling I experienced when I campaigned for Labour in 2014 and 2015. People across Thurrock are not anti-Europe, they are anti-EU. They were angry at the EU interfering with our laws, our sovereignty and our way of life. And they were also angry that Britain had no control over its borders and could not control the number of EU migrants entering the country.
When New Labour relaxed Britain’s borders with Poland in 2004, we were the only country in the EU to do so; other EU countries did not relax their borders until 2007. New Labour grossly underestimated how many Polish migrants would come to Britain. Employers across the country took advantage of cheap EU labour and sacked British workers and exploited EU migrants. Areas like Lincolnshire that is agricultural hired EU migrants to work on farms and fields, and the influx of cheap EU labour in 2004 led to the fall in wage growth.
Pro-EU campaigners argue that Britain’s farming industry and the NHS will suffer because of Brexit. Britain managed perfectly well prior to 2004 and there is no reason why we cannot manage post-Brexit. For starters we should start training young people and give them the skills they need to work in construction, farming and in medicine rather than remain reliant on overseas labour. There are around 600,000 unemployed young people aged under 25 in Britain and many would jump at the opportunity of being given a decent job rather than having to rely on zero hours contracts and seasonal work. Young people are leaving school with no aspiration because the Tories have thrown them on the scrapheap. These people are the future of Britain and they should he given a fair start in life.
Now is the time for Labour and other opposition parties to come together and hold the Tories to account over Brexit. Turbulent times lie ahead and it is the job of opposition parties to ensure the Tories deliver a Brexit that benefits everyone and not just a few. Jeremy Corbyn was right to respect the Brexit vote, as Labour’s northern heartlands voted Brexit by 75%. Unlike New Labour and Ed Miliband’s time as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn is listening to Labour’s heartlands and he is the first Labour leader in decades to truly represent them. Under New Labour the party lost 4 million working class voters.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has led to UKIP’s demise in the North of England; both Oldham West and Stoke-on-Trent showed UKIP that they will never beat Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Copeland, however, was a disappointing result for Labour, but since 2005 Labour’s vote share has dropped significantly. Jamie Reed, a New Labour relic, badly represented Copeland and despite his constituency voting to leave the EU, he voted to remain. When Jamie Reed resigned, Labour chose a pro-EU candidate for Copeland because the by-election was hijacked by New Labour relics. Their chosen candidate was Gillian Troughton, another New Labour relic who was very outspoken against Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit and clearly the people of Copeland did not want ‘more of the same’. So they voted Conservative because Theresa May is committed to delivering Brexit and getting on with the job.
As part of Brexit we will leave the Single Market which means Britain will finally have control of its borders and freedom of movement – something which the majority of people voted Brexit for. That said, we should not turn our backs on the EU and we should continue to welcome any EU national who chooses to come to Britain to live and work.
Far-right activists are using Brexit to spread racism, xenophobia and division in our communities and this is completely unacceptable. The Government must act. Brexit does not mean that Britain has closed its doors to the world and nor does it mean that foreign nationals are no longer welcome here. Britain has always been a welcoming and tolerant country because this is a British value – and we must ensure that this value is never taken away from us.
My only regret is that the late, great Labour MP Tony Benn is not here to witness this momentous occasion when Britain finally gets to take back control. He would have been a very proud man.