Neil Kinnock – the hurt of leaving the EEA “would be greatest” in Labour’s heartlands

Lord (Neil) Kinnock has written for The Independent on the importance of Labour backing continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Writing at the end of the week in which the House of Lords, following a Labour rebellion, voted to amend the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, Neil Kinnock, who is a leading supporter of Open Britain, says (extracts): 

I do not break the whip lightly. I respect our Labour leadership in the Lords and I value loyalty. But I have also said that the virtue, in excess, fills graveyards. In this case, not continuing in the EEA would mean endangering – sacrificing – thousands of skilled and decently paid jobs and, with them, the life chances of countless families and communities.

Outside the EEA, the battering of services industries would take a heavy toll in the costly, crowded, cosmopolitan areas. And from Broughton to Port Talbot, Sunderland to the East and West Midlands, Scotland to Western and southern England, lethal damage would be done to automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, engineering and other industries with product links to and from EEA markets that are now impediment-free.

In short, the hurt would be greatest among the very people our party was established to represent. The resulting corrosion of growth and incomes would further shrink revenues for the vital public services. That’s not a scare from Project Fear. It’s happening now, in this post-referendum devalued, misruled economy and we’re not even out of the single market yet.

Staying in the EEA can sustain employment and prospects for workers in this and future generations. Those who don’t take a stand for such a policy are letting myopic politics suppress realism.

Securing continued participation in the EEA is obviously not the same as stopping Brexit. But it would mean rule by common sense in the common interest instead of rule by the European Reform Group.

Ms May, or whoever picks up her pieces, will then have to choose between setting a clear new course that commands parliamentary support, or attempting to win a mandate for a hard Brexit in a general election. That ended in humiliation last year and is probably not likely. But, in this administration, the bizarre is normal – so anything is possible.

Labour must make this challenge. By supporting continued EEA participation we can end the prime minister’s deference to the cliff-edge kamikaze squad and force her, or her successor, into the pragmatic patriotism of putting country before party.



Notes to editors

Neil Kinnock’s full article can be read here: