28th August 2017
Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer, with Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn
The announcement yesterday, that the Labour Party will back continued membership of the single market and customs union beyond the date of Brexit in March 2019, signals the first move in preparation for an Autumn General Election. Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, writing in The Observer yesterday was unequivocal about the clarification of Labour’s position stating,
“We need a transitional Brexit deal that provides maximum certainty and stability. Labour will deliver it. If we are to deliver a deal that protects jobs and the economy, we must be clear about the hard choices that need to be made.”
The failure of the Tory government to come up with anything other than vacuous options papers over the summer, further fuelling the uncertainty about arrangements from March 2019 onwards, has left the door open for Labour to capture the centre ground and stake a clear policy position.
The length of any proposed transition is still unclear but the fact that there will be a period for negotiation, rather than the ‘cliff edge’ scenario proposed by the Tories for March 2019 will give UK business some reassurance.
The Labour position is clearly one that is transitional in every sense, designed to maximise party unity in the build up to the conference season and the return of Parliament. Key sections of the Labour leadership understand the contradictions of the EU, as a capitalist alliance aimed at shoring up its trading position against the US and Far East, whatever the cost to its weaker economies.
However, a hardline anti-EU position will not mobilise the constituency which backed Jeremy Corbyn at the last election. While the Labour Manifesto proved massively popular with a wide cross section of the population, not least young people, many of those have still bought into the concept of the EU as positive force.
An elected Labour government, which aims to implement its programme of nationalisation and public sector investment, will quickly come up against EU regulations that will provide barriers. At that point the struggle for a clear understanding of Brexit, and the right of a Left wing government to implement the programme upon which it has been elected, will open up a whole new front in the understanding of the role of the EU as a protectionist capitalist cartel.
Politically the promise of a transition post March 2019 will aim to keep both the Parliamentary Labour Party and voters on board long enough to see a Labour Government elected. The situation that government inherits, particularly in relation to jobs and the economy, will determine how negotiations with the rest of the EU proceed and how a transitional period will play out.
The political priority for the coming period is the ousting of the Tory government who will continue with austerity for the many, inside or outside of the EU. The Tories’ inability to govern, or even give a coherent gloss to negotiations with the EU, is becoming more evident with each day. It is time to ensure that those days are numbered.