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Facing the Unknown: Building a progressive response to Brexit

Essays setting out 11 principles for a progressive Brexit.


  • Facing the Unknown
  • By Olivia Bailey
  • Published 16 September 2016

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union shook the political establishment to its core. Within just a few hours, it toppled a prime minister, crashed the currency and threw the official opposition into turmoil. The UK’s metropolitan, liberal-minded elites were jolted into a sudden awareness of how frustrated and forgotten much of the country feels.

It seems there are two stages in dealing with this political shock. The first is to accept the decision, that “Brexit means Brexit”. And the second is trying to make the best of it by hammering out the terms of a potential deal. While the right, with its usual brutal efficiency, is getting on with shaping the future of our country, the left is struggling to pass stage one, let alone move to stage two. It is now crucial it does.

Facing the Unknown is a collection of essays written by senior Labour figures. These essays amount to 11 principles for a progressive response to Brexit:

1. We must respect people’s desire for control (argues James Morris)

2. We must see Brexit as the end of an era and commit to radically reshaping social democracy (argues Angela Eagle MP)

3. We must be an actor on the international stage, not just a commentator (argues Gisela Stuart MP)

To face the challenges in front of us and find new opportunities:

4. We must be the unifying force that holds the UK together (argues Nick Thomas Symonds MP)

5. We must develop a new approach to immigration and freedom of movement (argues Stephen Kinnock MP)

6. We must put safety first by protecting and developing our security partnerships in Europe and around the world (argues David Hanson MP)

7. We must see the result as a rejection of the economic status quo, and use the opportunity to build a fairer and more inclusive economy (argues Rachel Reeves MP)

8. We must reaffirm and reset employment protection to make clear our position as the workers’ party (argues Iain Wright MP)

9. We must build on the EU’s strong environmental record (argues Ruth Davis)

To get the tactics right in the months to come:

10. We must accept the referendum’s outcome and secure the best possible deal (argues Emma Reynolds MP)

11.  We must hold leave campaigners to account for their broken promises (argues Chuka Umunna MP)

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Olivia Bailey

Olivia Bailey is director of social policy at Public First and former head of domestic policy for Keir Starmer. She was previously deputy general secretary at the Fabian Society


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