Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister for Africa 11th March 2019 Blog Europe Share Tweet Co-operation across borders for a fairer society and economy, for peace, and for social justice is at the very heart of both the Co-operative Party – and the European Union. As Co-operators many of us have been horrified by Brexit and the utterly non-Co-operative way it has been carried out by this Tory Government. A Brexit without a deal – which is what many in Westminster fear the Prime Minister currently favours – will not only unravel decades of peaceful co-operation between the UK and EU Member states – it risks further austerity and cuts in spending that threaten the fairer economy and society we campaign for as a party. Our current relationship with the EU allows us to co-operate on areas such as food standards, environmental standards, workers rights, trade and international development and many of us rightly now fear that any form of Brexit will rapidly undermine these objectives at home and abroad. And the EU itself directly benefits co-operation at many levels – notably in agriculture. In the UK, more than 140,000 British farmers are members and co-owners of over 400 agricultural and farmer co-operatives and as Brexit day looms ever closer, the threat of reduced support, border delays and tariff changes mean that our thriving agricultural co-operatives could also be put under threat. But Brexit reality is already here – with the Tories spending billions on preparing for a reckless ‘no deal’ scenario that they say they don’t want when our NHS, police and other public services are crying out for more staff and funding. So where do we go from here? Decision-making processes within co-operative movements work best because it is the people with a stake – whether members, staff or other customers who are at the heart of the organisation and the decisions it takes. And that democratic process is constant, ongoing and adaptable to change. The UK’s potential withdrawal from the EU represents the most important issue that this country has had to face since the 1940s, and the effects of whatever deal the Government ends up securing could be far-reaching for years to come. This is simply too important a decision to freeze democracy and claim it only counted on one day in 2016. Co-operative decision making demands a different approach and that is why in October 2018, it was delegates at the Co-operative Party conference who led the way by democratically choosing to put the Party’s support decisively behind the campaign for a final say on Brexit for the people in a public vote. Giving a voice to the people to decide the future of their own country, based on Brexit reality not Brexit fantasy, is exactly how it should be, and that is why I as a Co-operative MP am campaigning hard to give people a final say. We face crucial decisions over the next weeks in Parliament as to whether we take another look at this decision, or simply plough ahead, or even deliver a Westminster stitch-up that has the risk of alienating both so-called leavers and remainers. This Tory Brexit chaos poses a threat to the very essence of co-operation in this country and across this continent. A co-operative solution – by consulting and letting the people confirm whether or not they want to proceed – provides the answer.