Labour’s Red Wall

In this article, the author considers what may have led to the fall of “Labour’s Red Wall” in the most recent election. The ‘red wall’ refers to those seats Labour lost “in old industrial heartlands” in the Midlands and North of England.  The first topic Yezza considers is Brexit. He argues that Labour’s “late pivot” to support a second referendum was “disastrous” for retaining any support in Leave-voting constituencies. He claims that the party’s “deficit” among Leave voters grew from 41% to 60%, so that it ultimately held on to 14% of the Leave vote, compared to the Conservatives’ 74%. The author describes how the absence of an “effective Remain alliance” meant that the Lib Dems and Labour were also splitting votes, further increasing Conservative seats. The article then discusses some elements of the successful Conservative campaign and concludes that “Labour lost its Leavers while Tory Remainers stayed loyal”. Yezza argues that although Brexit may have “ruptured” the bonds with industrial constituencies, there were signs that “these had been loosening for years”.  The author concludes that the election result of 2019 does not spell the end of the parliamentary Labour party as its vote share at the recent election was higher than in 2015, 2010, 1987 or 1983.

Transition Period

The revised withdrawal agreement bill, which passed its Commons second reading on 20 December 2019, contains a clause that prohibits an extension to the transition period after December 2020. This blog post from the UCL European Institute blog argues that this could be “both legally and politically problematic” for the UK Government. The initial reasoning for Professor Eeckhout’s opinion is that the provision would not be “in good faith”. He states that the wording of the withdrawal agreement means that either side could ask for an extension to the transition period. The proposed text by the Government would remove this possibility before the beginning of any negotiations. The article looks at two possible arguments the Government could use in its favour: that the bill, following royal assent, could be amended; or that the bill is “merely” an internal matter. Eeckhout argues that even if the Government later changes its mind about an extension, it would have been “heavily signalling” from the outset of discussions that “a provision of the agreement is likely to be redundant”. In addition, he states that this aspect of the bill would not just have an effect on the UK internally, as the Government “could not lawfully extend” even if a decision was made through international negotiations to do so. Eeckhout believes that the outcome of a shorter transition period might be a “less comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement”.