Yvette Cooper MP

Working hard for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford & Knottingley

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Yvette's speech to the Centre for European Reform


Britain is in a political crisis.

We are still coming to terms with the sheer enormity of the referendum decision

And the country is divided.

Some people are delighted, some distressed, some in doubt.

Europhiles think we are weaker, poorer out. Eurosceptics think we’ve taken back control.

Teenagers think their future has been taken away from them. But many people think they have seized their destiny back.

We’re in a new world. Only we don’t really know what it is.

Our constitution, our international role, our United Kingdom.

Our economy, our borders, our sense of identity, all up in the air.

And there have been some serious immediate developments since the result. The pound has plummeted, shares have fallen and foreign investors are pulling out.

Hate crime reports to the police have shot up by over 50% since the result

Polish families getting messages through their letter box calling them vermin

Muslim women told “We voted you out, why are you still here”

No one knows quite what lies ahead

These are difficult and dangerous waters

Yet there is no plan.

Not from the Leave campaigners

Not from the Government

Not from the Conservative Party

Not from the Labour Party

Only Nicola Sturgeon has a sort of plan – and that is unlikely to be one that pulls Britain together.

From the Prime Minister all we get is a unit of civil servants and the reassuring news that Oliver Letwin is in charge

From my party, Jeremy Corbyn cannot even fill a Shadow Front Bench to respond. No alternative Government. No alternative plan.

And from Boris Johnson, the front-runner to be the next Prime Minister, each day a different flip, a different flop as he changes his message for a different audience.

There is a political vacuum just when political leadership is needed most


At a time like this we need some maturity from our politics and our politicians and we are getting the opposite.

And it’s about to get worse. The post referendum political process we are becoming trapped in is failing our country.

Right now we have big choices - hard choices - to make as a country

Britain has made a decision to leave the European Union

But we have made no decision at all about what kind of country we are going to be next

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it because there is so much at stake.

It isn’t enough to keep re-running the arguments of the referendum – grieving on one side, or still dreaming on the other. Its real now.

The country has spoken and we have a responsibility to try to make this work.

That is in our hands. It is the most important thing our generation now must do and will have consequences for generations to come.

To forge a new relationship with Europe as we build a new consensus about the kind of country we are going to be


First we have to reflect on why this happened

The cities voted in. Industrial towns voted out. Digital growth areas like the M4 corridor or the University towns voted in. The Tory shires and the Labour coalfields voted out. Scotland voted in. England and Wales voted out. The young voted in. Older votes chose out. Graduates in. Working class communities out.

Those who saw globalisation as an opportunity voted in

Those who felt globalisation was a threat and didn’t trust “the system” to make it better voted out

The woman on Thursday who told me she was voting out because “well they all deserve a kick”

The man on Friday who told me how pleased he was that Britain was finally standing up for itself again.

Communities who didn’t believe the Remain campaigns arguments about risk because they didn’t feel they had much more to lose.

People who said they didn’t believe “experts”, because too often experts have let them down

Places that that people too often feel no longer have a purpose. Because the jobs have gone to the cities and shops to out of town malls

A Tory Prime Minister could not persuade them. Because a Tory government has let them down.

But Labour had nothing to say that could convince them either.

They weren’t convinced by staying in Europe because they couldn’t see how they benefited

And yes, lots of people were really worried about immigration.

As for Boris Johnson’s could claim yesterday he didn’t believe people were driven by anxiety about immigration.

If he didn’t believe it why did his campaign deliberately play on people’s anxiety every single day.

The posters on Turkey. The daily press releases about foreign criminals or migrants using the NHS. The leaflets. The interviews.

David Cameron’s approach was no better.

He refused to talk about it. For years he has ramped up the rhetoric. For years he has made promises. Then suddenly he refused to talk about it at all. No wonder people got crosser and crosser.

It’s the most sensitive issue of all. Yet we’ve had screaming on one side, silence on the other.

We are here without a plan because politics has failed.

Because our political process just couldn’t deal with the difficult issues so they got worse

Because too many of our politicians couldn’t work out how to solve problems so they made false promise or just walked away

Because too many towns feel they have no future

Because immigration seemed too hard to solve

Because the EU seemed too hard to reform

Because inequality is still rising and it seemed too hard to stop

Because we weren’t prepared to take action to sort out housing

Because trust collapsed

And with every layer of failure, politics just made it worse.


So we need some big changes in our politics

Too many politicians have been promoting division, playing games with fear and anxiety rather than providing sensible answers instead – and that is dangerous.

They have set a climate in which extremists can exploit the result.

Teachers are reporting that pupils are spouting race hate in the classroom

Social media abuse and racist death threats have gone up

People in Britain in our tolerant and diverse Britain, are now feeling fearful for their safety because of their nationality or the colour of their skin

We have to stop this now.

It is deeply dangerous.

This is not the kind of country we want to be

It is also not what Britain voted for last week

This is not what millions of Leave voters want.

The Prime Minister was right to condemn this and promise the police the resources they need to respond. But every one of us needs to speak out against this.

Campaigners like Nigel Farage who tried to poison the referendum debate with posters fuelling hatred towards refugees or Michael Gove with his lies on Turkey need now to search their souls and speak out loudly to condemn this violence and hatred.

Nor can we sustain a politics based on more false promises.

Before the referendum Nigel Farage said £55m a day for hospitals and schools. After he said it was ‘a mistake’

Before the referendum they said £350 million a week extra for the NHS. Now Ian Duncan Smith says he never “said it”

Yet it was on the side of their bus.

Week after week of promising more controls on immigration

Now Daniel Hannan says free movement’s here to stay

Before the referendum Boris Johnson promised big changes to free movement.

Now he says Brits will still have all the same freedoms to live, work and travel in Europe.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have already fought one vote on one set of false promises. For the referendum itself.

They are about to do the same again for another vote on another set of false promises. This time for the keys to Number 10

And they may well then do it a third time in a General Election

But all of it is fantasy. None of it is about the reality of the negotiations Britain now needs with the EU on what our relationship will be, or what kind of country we choose to be outside the EU

None of it is about the real hard choices our country now needs to make about who we are.

That’s not just dishonest it is dangerous.

But Labour needs to change too.

And at a time when the world has changed, when an election is looming, I am very concerned that Jeremy Corbyn has no plan to re-unite the Labour movement, no plan to respond to the deep and serious issues the referendum has thrown up, and no plan for a looming General Election.

We have a huge task to reunite Leave and Remain Labour voters and supporters in a progressive vision of Britain’s future.

Just as the country is divided between city and town over the referendum, a gulf is growing between Labour’s support in the cities and the Midlands and Northern industrial towns that have long been our heartlands.

Our party is in danger of becoming a party of the Cities and University towns

Labour votes in the cities who voted in must not push away the Labour voters in the town who voted out. They are not right wing. And they are waiting for us to stand up for them.

I got to know Jeremy last year and I always found him a kind, friendly man. He won well and he has brought more people into the party. He did not lose the referendum – the Prime Minister lost the referendum he called. But Jeremy did not show he had any of the campaigning zeal our Party needs in a tough fight.

But he is losing us Labour support across the country – and particularly in the towns and coalfields that built the labour movement in the first place.

Jeremy would be letting down Labour voters and communities across the country who badly need a strong Labour voice right now, and who badly need a Labour government, if he drags this out any longer.  I hope he does the right thing in the party and stands down swiftly because we cannot drift and leave Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Ian Duncan Smith to shape Britain’s future.


We need our politicians and parties to get a grip.

Because there are big, hard choices about the kind of future we now build.

We need a proper plan and a process for what happens next.

And everyone needs a say – those who voted to leave and those who voted to stay – in what kind of country we become now

The Prime Minister was right not to trigger Article 50 straight away. Move too fast and we will give the EU the upper negotiating hand.

But he was wrong not to set out a proper process for debate and decisions to be made.

The Letwin unit is laughably inadequate.

Our negotiating strategy is going to end up being determined by an arms race of pledges in the Tory leadership race.

That’s not on.

This is far too important for that.

The Prime Minister should establish a cross party joint committee of both houses of Parliament to oversee the options and negotiating strategy that is drawn up. It should include those who supported Leave and those who supported Remain.

And there needs to be direct access for the Opposition to civil servants now too. The leading Tory party contender has said he is considering an General Election. The Prime Minister has accepted there may be a case for an early General Election, that may be only 4 months away.

I am therefore writing to Jeremy Heywood the Cabinet Secretary to ask him to trigger the process for access talks for opposition parties.  

And we need to start debating now some of the serious issues that need to be resolved.

On trade

On immigration

On contributions

On security

On foreign policy

We’ve heard different right wing visions from the right of what Britain outside Europe looks like.

Libertarians who see this as a way to roll back all state involvement. Free marketeers who see it as a way to cut employment protection. Reactionary conservatives who want to cut themselves off from the rest of the world.

But none of those right wing visions will work for Britain.

Labour should be opposing the libertarianism of campaigners like Dominic Raab who would keep us out of things like the European Arrest Warrant or Europol. In or out of the EU, we badly need that security cooperation that keeps us safe.

Labour must campaign strongly against the calls by Tories like Priti Patel who want a bonfire of workers rights. Labour should be pressing now for the rights that are based on European legislation to be swiftly embedded in UK law

The leaders of the campaign to leave may be right wingers who made false promises.

Most of those who voted to leave in good faith really are not.

We may no longer be in the EU, but they are still our closest friends and neighbours, our biggest and nearest customers. And they should still be our partners on the world stage.

We need to build a progressive, outward-looking Labour vision of Britain’s future alongside the EU – a new “special relationship” with our European partners underpinned by Labour values – social solidarity, equality, social justice and human rights.

That means we also have to do the best deal we can for jobs and economic growth,

And we know the real challenge is getting a deal on trade and free movement.

And here’s where it gets really hard. Access to the single market is vital for so many jobs.

We want no tariffs on our car industry

Access to the single market for our service sector

Passporting rights for our financial services

We want it all, but its going to be a tough diplomatic challenge to get it.

And most sensitive of all, we need a plan for immigration.

I argued for reform of free movement if we stayed in the EU. And while access to the single market is vital, there is no doubt that Britain outside the EU will not support full free movement of unskilled workers.

But heres the problem. We know there is strong support for immigration reform. But there is no consensus on what the new framework should be.

And our community cohesion cannot cope with more games on this. No more false promises. No more ramping up the rhetoric. No more sheepish silence. No more Boris flip flops. No more Farage inflaming things.

This will need careful diplomacy and negotiations in Europe.

But alongside here at home, we need a National Commission on Immigration charged with building a consensus across the country – drawing together faith leaders, community leaders, trades unions, employers, the voice of the small towns and the big cities. We have to face this. Britain has benefited for Centuries from people coming here from abroad. We need international talent and ideas. But we also need a system that is fair and has public consent. Or the divisions will grow and extremists will be able to exploit them.

We need a comprehensive plan on immigration – from border controls to employment rules, to community cohesion. It needs to be transparent and it needs public consent. Or whatever happens over Europe and the negotiations we will have serious problems for decades to come.

We have a choice.

Whether Britain outside the EU chooses to be a fair, outward looking country, tolerant, diverse, narrowing inequalities, standing up for social justice, that works with our partners and trades with the world

Or whether we turn inwards and rightwards. Turning on each other. Legitimising extremism. Sneering at each other. Cutting back the social solidarity or shared faith in our common humanity, where inequalities widen and those with least are hardest hit.

It’s in our hands and it is urgent.

Politics has to rise to the challenge

And Labour has to rise to the challenge too

Thank you




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commented 2016-12-04 15:28:41 +0000
Dear Albert

As a fellow ex labour supporter I share some of your views and I don’t think that your prespective makes you a racist.

But I won’t vote for UKIP because their not good enough for me, and I’d rather not vote at all than vote for a party that I mostly don’t agree with, even if in some ways they support my views and aknowledge my concerns.

But seriously.. it’s not fair to get that personal and it makes you come across in a bad way, as I’d you may came on here to insult someone rather than express your opinion.

commented 2016-12-04 14:44:31 +0000
P.S… WHEN are you taking in your family of refugees you promised, yet you’re talking the talk on race hate from Le Farage and is poster being innaccurate and divisive? Aren’t you the same? Please answer. I’ll never be voting the Liebour Party again
commented 2016-12-04 14:38:02 +0000
The only one stirring up division is you, Miss Cooper. The referendum would not have the impetus without Mr Farage, which sticks in your craw. Perhaps you could deal with racism from within your own party from Diane Abbot (who gets away with it all the time, because she is black) and the anti-semitism your glorious leader Corbyn and you, swept away FIRSTT. I, like many ex-Labour voters, because of your rhetoric and accusing us of racism, when we are not, have gone over to UKIP. Give yourself a pat on the back.
commented 2016-11-15 12:54:37 +0000
I’m reading with interest this proposal, regarding The potential to have UK citizens opt to become EU associate citizens (for a fee) after it has left the EU and for those that chose this option to possibly retain many of the rights we enjoy today e.g. Freedom of movement and healthcare.


Another point is that UK citizenship and EU citizenship doesn’t have to be synonymous.

I’d be in favour and may even opt for EU associate citizenship myself if this became a reality. This would be pragmatic and allow U.K. Citizens to choose how they want to continue with their own relationship with the EU.

There are many doing similar by applying for Irish passports if they have the needed ancestry, so this would provide a more uniform approach to what is already going on.
commented 2016-07-13 12:33:32 +0100
Forgot to say that I agree with you Leanne about Jeremy Corbyn having the guts to stand firm and face all the media and criticism. That’s part of the job too
commented 2016-07-13 12:17:15 +0100
Leanne – I know exactly what you are saying about being loyal to and backing the leader. But if you are going to be the leader of a party, and potentially the whole country, you’re job is not just to be able to conect with voters, it is also to be able to manage and connect with your team. If Jeremy Corbyn cannot communicate effectively with his own team and organise them and generate a sense of team spirit and command respect and authority, then unfortunately, no matter how good he is in other areas, he is not the person for the job. You’ve got to be able to do both. I agree with you about his being strong and carrying on and that shows stamina like you say. But it part of the leaders job to be able to pull the team together, the team can’t just pull themselves together if they do not get on with the leader who is telling them what to do. I think this is not a loyalty issue, it is an issue about JC’s inability to manage people effectively.

I’m just sad that the labour party can’t seem to be able to get over itself. The good thing about Jeremy Corbyn is that he seems outward looking. Whereas other candidates seem to be inward looking and caught up in all the labour tangling. It’s so sad to see the party seemingly trapped in it’s own internal bickering. I am a left-leaning centrist, but ultimately if I don’t have faith in the leader of my prefered party, I will vote for a leader I have faith in from a different party. I’m not voting for some one who is incompetent at an important aspect of their job, regardless of their other qualities. At the moment I am considering leaving labour and joining a different party because labour seems concerned with little other thand itself.
commented 2016-07-11 20:44:28 +0100
I think Jeremy Corbyn has shown he isn’t a weak leader over the last few weeks, to stay where he is and fight for his leadership instead of burying his head in the sand which is what a lot of his MPs have asked him to do. There are not many people that would stand In front of the people and carry on like he has. You have to have total respect for him. Maybe if the Labour Party had backed him with Syria we wouldn’t now be responsible for all the children and people blown to bits there, and where has it got is? Just more people looking for revenge, no one appears to have learnt from Iraq. But then no one learnt from Ireland! I voted leave because this country can and will stand stronger on its own, the EU is a disaster waiting to happen it doesn’t work. I have nothing against anyone who lives here from other countries staying, they should not be booted out, but anyone else should be vetted and checked before entering. It’s about time this country stood together England , Scotland and Wales, it’s time that the labour government pulled together backed their leader and listen to what he has to say, instead of listening to the children that shout and scream over him (David Cameron). Let’s start manufacturing again producing our own, we don’t have anything in this country anymore it all belongs to everyone else! I want my children to have a future, one they can have a say in. So come on stop slating each other start backing your leader and pull together!! If you cannot back the man the people are voting for them you are not acting for the people
commented 2016-07-08 11:09:05 +0100
Lets all stop fighting amongst ourselves and concentrate on making labour a force strong enough to lead our country.Instead of spending all our energy and political skill, arguing. why cant we accept there are some features in the party that need addressing before we tear ourselves apart lets realise as we did with Ed Milliband he is a very intellegent man but could be of more use doing what he knows best. Gordon Brown was exactly the same ,great at finance but he didnt have what the country was looking for as a leader.So please Jeremy step down and help us back into number ten.Vote Yvette Cooper for our new leader and give Labour the opportunity to have our own woman Prime Minister
commented 2016-07-08 05:18:57 +0100
This is the best speech/article I have read or seen anywhere, since Brexit, possibly excluding Jonathan Sacks’ article in the Telegraph a few days ago. The country is tearing itself apart and our so-called leaders are running away or squabbling in pathetic power struggles. Into the appalling leadership vacuum step all manner of opportunists. What is needed is somebody to provide some leadership by articulating a positive and hopeful post-Brexit narrative where everyone feels heard and divisions can be healed. In the absence of any such leadership, we see an appalling descent into a destructive narrative of xenophobia and hatred. I too would love to see Yvette Cooper stand for Labour leader.
commented 2016-07-08 00:11:41 +0100
Get behind Corbyn. Nobody dare go up against him because you all know he has the backing of the Labour support. All the backstabbing has damaged those that have turned their back on Jeremy. How many of the MP’s that have up sticks against him got their constituencies to vote remain? Exactly.
Stop blaming and fight the Tories with Jeremy.
commented 2016-07-07 21:17:08 +0100
i would love to see Yvette Cooper to stand for labour leader
commented 2016-06-30 21:33:18 +0100
Thanks for this. Helpful and positive for me. Also thanks for getting a grip and trying to get the jobs done that need doing where others are busy dwelling. Not that things aren’t bad or anything, but politicians need to be sorting out this mess as they the only ones who can seemingly do anything about it. Ugh, but at least you’re talking sense.
commented 2016-06-29 21:56:51 +0100
Thank you Leslie for this information.
commented 2016-06-29 21:15:46 +0100
I notice that you were on of the MPs who voted with your conscience to bomb in the Middle East and then meet and greet refugees who were fleeing war. Maybe if you and other MPs excercise their conscienses to support the Leader of the Labour Party then things would bode well for the Party. I don’t need a MP who follows a right wing hidden agenda, I need a representative with morals and integrity. The ethic of your voting record above is on a par with your lack of support for the Labour Party leader. I fear for the future of the Labour Party if this right wing agenda is followed through I can see a split into two parties right and left, which will you gravitate to and would be my vote be better used to support another entirely different party than Labour?
commented 2016-06-29 18:37:09 +0100
Thank you…. This is crucially exactly the kind of dynamic response we need right now. We need full participation on every level from all members of all parties ….. We need strong leadership on all parties to make sure you achieve the best possible outcome for this country.
Stand up for us and as the new leader…
commented 2016-06-29 08:55:01 +0100
I agree with this. A pro Europe Remain representative from Labour needs to be involved in the negotiations. I think Yvette has the right kind of vision that has been lacking so far, one that democratically involves everyone. Brussels want to deal with MPs of integrity especially after Farage’s disgraceful performance yesterday. Boris’s views are not representative of our country either and no one trusts him. We need a young dynamic leader for the Labour Party – someone who is not intimidated by the likes of Yonkers. And soon. Before Boris makes things worse. Good luck Yvette.
commented 2016-06-28 22:59:34 +0100
The nation needs strong guidance NOW and if Labour moves quickly it can seize the day…propose a clearer 2nd referendum including 16 year olds and get SNP to sign up to the proposals. You would be a good candidate but sure Labour has a strong leader somewhere in its PLP ranks…
commented 2016-06-28 22:48:44 +0100
You seem to just be saying that we need a plan. Truth is we don’t even have the sills in this country to construct the plan let alone execute on it. We don’t have the legal skills and we don’t have the trade negotiation skills. This exit is a mamouth task and is going to derail this country. You seem to accept that the leave campaign was based on a pack of lies and yet you accept the result. i can’t understand this. I will only support a remain candidiate in the upcoming election. No matter which party they come from. Even thought I have voted labour all my life. Admit that this is not possible. That it was a Tory party issue. That Labour has always beem Pro EU and always will be and you will win.
commented 2016-06-28 19:48:00 +0100
If your intend to roll-over and accept that we are leaving then I will not be supporting you any longer. This needs to be fought tooth and nail. Perhaps we would lose, but Labour needs to be 100% united behind the message that we will not be activating article 50, and if the populace wants it activated they are going to have to find someone else to drive the country off a cliff and set it on fire. A narrow win in an advisory referendum based on lies is not a legitimate grounds for permanently destroying the country. If parliament is supposed to be sovereign then it needs to prove it by taking this referendum as what it is: advisory and ill-advised, and then fighting the next general election on the question.
commented 2016-06-28 16:06:15 +0100
Thank you, a clear and coherent response which shows leadership.
commented 2016-06-28 15:59:35 +0100
Yvette, all well and good – but I have the same problems with you that I had at the last leadership election – and if you do not address them it means I cannot support you – and Jeremy Corbyn remains the only game in town! You say all of the fine words in an article like this – but you do not mention the way our economic system functions for the benefit of the few and cost of the many, that puts profits before people and communities and is prepared to spend enormous sums and drive phenomenal levels of national debts to prop up banks – resulting in austerity policies that impact entirely disproportionately on whose who are most disadvantaged in our society and swingeing cuts in public services. Most seem to agree that one big underlying reason for the out vote was a large swathe of society who were sick of watching the establishment ‘look after themselves’, inequality grow and no party (except perhaps UKIP) attempting to engage with them and make their votes mean a damn. Until you acknowledge that the neo liberal capitalist model propped up by austerity policies has utterly failed ordinary people – and that there is a need for massive reform of our whole economic system, banking, taxation, benefits and funding of public services, ways of running natural monopolies of vital services (i.e. nationalisation) – accepting that enforced fragmentation and competition is not the way to improve the NHS – then – in Morrisey’s words – you have nothing to say to me – and I suspect nothing to say to the large majority of Labour members and supporters. I do not support Jeremy because he is Jeremy. I share all of your concerns about his abilities to unite and lead the party, to develop a credible policy platform we can unite behind and to lead the engagement with the wider population. I support him because he is the only one holding the torch for the fundamental issues that will actually make any real and lasting difference to the people we are in politics to represent. DO not give me airy fairy hoped for ‘narrowing inequalities’ and building a fairer society – tell me you are prepared to do what it actually takes to achieve this. Have the bottle to tell the truth and people will support you – continue to fudge it ……………
commented 2016-06-28 15:40:28 +0100
I voted Leave, and would vote Leave again – and Yvette is talking good sense here. Push on, Yvette!

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