John McDonnell’s speech to ‘Love Socialism’ anti-Brexit meeting in Parliament

On Monday 15 July, the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group of MPs – now rebranded as Love Socialism, Rebuild Britain, Transform Europe, and welcoming in a number of new MPs – held a packed meeting in the House of Commons. It was also sponsored by Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe, Labour for a People’s Vote, and Open Labour. We hope to publish a report soon. This is the speech Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell sent to the meeting.

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Sorry I can’t make the meeting tonight.

I have a public meeting in my constituency at 7pm convened by the local Stop Heathrow Expansion campaign mobilising against the 3rd Runway. I fully support this campaign and will be speaking at the public meeting.

The message I wish to give to your meeting is:

First, I fear that Johnson is willing to tip our country into the disaster of a no deal. We must work across the House to prevent this being inflicted on our community. We cannot stand by and allow Parliament to be prorogued or ignored. Johnson and his wealthy friends will be largely protected from the increased food prices, threat to NHS drug supplies and eroding living standards caused by a no deal Brexit. I warn you not to underestimate the reckless, ruthless, self-serving ambition of Johnson, who is willing to put our people at risk to secure the temporary keys of No 10.

Second, I am tremendously pleased that we are now committed to a referendum in which we will campaign to Remain. This reflects the increasing level of awareness of the impact Brexit would have on our economy and the jobs of the people we represent.

Third, in any future campaign we must learn the lessons of the last referendum campaign. I campaigned in that referendum with others on the slogan “Another Europe is Possible.” I believe that we failed in the last referendum because we failed to convince large areas of our country that another Europe was possible. We didn’t promote sufficiently the transformative policy programme we are constructing for many of the areas that in frustration and anger voted for Brexit. So we must campaign for Remain but also the change that many of our communities desperately need after decades of neoliberal dominance and years of harsh austerity.

Fourth, that transformative programme includes both the large scale economic investment needed in these towns and also proposals for reform of the way the institutions of the EU operate to increase accountability and participation. That’s why I have favoured consideration of the use of Citizens’ Assemblies before any vote to both better infirm the debate but also build understanding and, wherever possible, consensus.

Finally, we now need to campaign with idealism. Of course the economic argument is critical to our campaign but we also need to inspire people with the principles of internationalism that assert the unity of peoples rather than the separateness of nation states. At Labour’s International Social Forum at the weekend we agreed that a new Internationalism was not only possible but needed. We should reframe our debate and campaigning over Europe into that inspiring vision.

Solidarity

John McDonnell

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