Voices: Welcome to a Labour government – it’s time to fix the Brexit mess

Prime minister Keir Starmer hosts his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street (PA)
Prime minister Keir Starmer hosts his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street (PA)

It wasn’t just the destruction of the Tory party that filled me with joy on Thursday. It was realising that we could finally raise the bar of our hopes. Labour has spent this entire election being scared of sounding too left wing, for fear of giving the Tories ways to attack them – now that they’re in power, that is no longer a concern.

With such a huge majority, Keir Starmer’s government can do so many things that will massively improve this country and the lives of its people. He doesn’t need to be shy about tackling controversial subjects for fear of upsetting potential fence sitters – and yes, that includes the thorny topic of Brexit. But if he doesn’t act fast, he’ll be handing Nigel Farage the keys to Downing Street in 2029.

The fact is, it doesn’t make any sense for us not to rejoin the EU single market as quickly as possible. It is universally accepted that Brexit is making us poorer every day due to the extra paperwork and charges at the border.

According to the Food and Drink Federation, Brexit cost UK producers about £2bn in 2021 alone. George Freeman, one of the Tories’ only remaining MPs, has said that we’re paying the cost of Brexit in our food bills. The London School of Economics and the Bank of England confirm this. Even several Reform UK candidates have admitted Brexit is making our food more expensive and has made us poorer.

Who exactly would Labour be upsetting by undoing all of that financial misery? With almost every economist agreeing Brexit is costing us tens of billions a year, it would be insane not to at least try to put things right.

If Starmer negotiated with the EU to effectively join the single market ASAP, that would immediately improve the economy. The pound plummeted when the original Brexit referendum result was announced, because it meant the UK would be unplugged from Europe’s smooth supply routes. Announcing that those barriers will soon disappear would increase the value of the pound in people’s pockets.

But it isn’t just Brexit. With their unprecedented majority, Labour has a chance to address inequality across the board. That means taxing wealth and investing in neglected parts of the UK. It means tackling the UK’s systemic employment discrimination, by making job applications anonymous so that employers don’t see the name, gender, race, school, or town of the applicant, unless strictly necessary. And crucially, it means giving us a proportional voting system where all votes count equally.

Labour has 63 per cent of the seats in parliament despite only getting 34 per cent of the votes. In 2019, the Tories got 56 per cent of the seats from 44 per cent of the votes. In almost every UK election, a party with a minority of the vote ends up getting a majority of seats.

That means the majority of votes have no effect on UK government policy, because a minority party usually has a controlling majority. I don’t think Starmer should be able to get through a single interview without someone asking him: “Why do you believe the majority of British votes shouldn’t count?”

Now, there is a carrot to go with that stick. Under a fair voting system, Labour would no longer have to appear centrist, like Tony Blair and Starmer, to win power. They could be a true party of the left. And given that the majority of votes always go to parties to the left of the Tories, Labour would likely be the main party in any hypothetical coalition government.

This country has been through 14 years of chaos, bigotry, poverty and excess deaths. If Labour doesn’t address the cost of living crisis in a way that working-class people across the UK can really feel, then by the next election the public will have lost faith in both the Conservatives and Labour. Farage will have free rein to stroll into parliament, unimpeded by either of the two former main parties.

Given the evidence of racism within the Reform Party, and their candidates admitting that they plan to severely damage our food supply if elected via no-deal Brexit, a Farage victory in 2029 would send us straight back to hatred and hardship.

These are the stakes Starmer is playing with. He must use the window of opportunity he has been granted to make material improvements to the UK, and prevent the catastrophe of a Farage premiership – before that window closes forever.