Labour’s Brexit policy equals no deal. Unless they do this.
This week, the majority of Labour MPs voted against the following amendment to the Tory plans for Brexit.
An amendment proposing to keep the UK in the Single Market.
From a Scottish perspective, 6 out of 7 Scottish Labour MPs voted against. In doing so they voted against something that is completely against the will of the majority of Scots. A move that makes a mockery of the supposed independence of Scottish Labour.
That said, this blog is more concerned with UK Labour’s Brexit stance.
At a glance it is weird so many voted against the amendment as it actually chimes with much of what was in the Labour manifesto.
However, the language being used in the manifesto is misleading.
You see, the Single Market and the Customs Union are not separate entities. The Customs Union is part of the Single Market. As is free movement of people and other institutions such as the Common Agricultural Policy.
When Labour say,
retaining the benefits of the Single Market
They really mean leaving the Single Market and picking and choosing the bits of the Single Market they like while disregarding the bits they don’t.
The main aspect of the Single Market they hate was also mentioned in their manifesto.
Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.
Labour, therefore, is hoping to negotiate a deal that allows access to the European Economic Area(EEA) and the Customs Union but allows controlled migration. In other words, Labour is hoping for a turbocharged EFTA type deal.
This is a gallant but unrealistic goal. Free movement is a European red line. As recently as last year, Switzerland, who are part of the EEA but not the Single Market, tried to negotiate a curb on free movement. They failed just as the UK is likely to do.
A EU diplomat said at the time.
We cannot set a precedent on free movement, especially not now, given the UK situation.
Given the sticking point of free movement it is hard to see a significant difference between a Tory and Labour Brexit. Labour is certainly using softer language. For instance, unlike the Conservatives, Labour has said in its manifesto that not having any deal would be a disaster.
Yet, in practice, what does rejecting No Deal actually mean?
The way things stand Labour will only have a choice to reject the final deal yet doing so doesn’t mean we will stay in the EU. Rejecting the deal means we leave with No Deal. Ruling out Free movement means that Labour is leaving themselves with a choice of rejecting a bad deal or having no deal at all.
There is still one way for Labour to give themselves the power live up to their manifesto and,
reject ‘no deal’.
In the coming months, there will be a bill put through parliament that will give Theresa May the power to repeal the European Communities Act. That bill will contain a clause that will give May the power to execute the repeal at the time of her choosing.
Essentially, if Labour allows this to pass they will lose the ability to meaningfully reject a bad Brexit. As such, Labour should try to amend May’s clause so that Parliament has to consent to repeal the act. In this way, it becomes possible to stop a bad deal without ending up with no deal at all.
So, while Labour’s current policy on free movement is unworkable and will probably result in a bad Brexit deal. They may be able to give themselves the option of avoiding the repercussion. I for one will be watching closely to see if they grab this opportunity.
If they don’t you have to wonder what is the point of Labour and who is representing the majority that don’t want a hard Brexit?
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