Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his frontbench team are under increased pressure from across the Left to reject the ‘Lexit myths’ propagated by some within the Labour Movement, and to finally commit to keep Britain in the Single Market and Customs Union.
In ‘Busting the Lexit Myths’, a new paper published today [Tuesday] by Open Britain and the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, Labour MPs and MEPs, academics, environmentalists and senior trade unionists have come together to demand that the party “get off the fence”, reject “mistruths” from the “liars of Lexit” and end the 19-month long ambiguity on what Labour’s leaders mean by a “jobs-first Brexit”.
Authors include former shadow Foreign Office minister Catherine West MP, the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party Richard Corbett MEP, and Lord (John) Monks, the former General Secretary of the TUC.
The pamphlet directly addresses ‘Lexit myths’ such as: the idea that austerity is a consequence of EU membership; the claim that EU state aid rules would prevent Labour having an active industrial strategy; the idea that the EU would block renationalisation of the railways; and the belief that Labour could strike ‘more progressive’ trade deals if Britain leaves the Customs Union.
Heidi Alexander MP, leading supporter of Open Britain and Co-Chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, said:
“We have to be honest. There is real frustration out there, amongst Labour members and supporters about the Party’s position on Brexit. The sooner the leadership recognise this, the better it will be for the country.
“At no point in my lifetime has the Opposition’s policy on an issue been more important. The fact that we continue to hedge our bets, when the argument is there to be won, is not doing anyone any favours.
“We need to remain in the Customs Union, meaning no tariffs on goods traded between the UK and the EU and we need to stay in the Single Market, so our service industries can continue to trade freely and easily.
“If we don’t get our act together we will see jobs go, the tax-take fall and public services cut further - we can’t let that happen.”
Alison McGovern MP, leading supporter of Open Britain and Co-Chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, said:
“It is time for Labour to get off the fence. To end any perception that our party is on the same side as the purveyors of falsehoods like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove we need there to be a real difference between our party’s policy and that of Theresa May.
“Labour must be the party that stands up for the real interests of working people on Europe and which is not afraid to call out the liars of Brexit and Lexit for what they are.
“Words about a ‘jobs-first Brexit’ are in danger of looking like nothing more than clever rhetoric unless Labour actually backs the policies that will put jobs first by keeping us in the Single Market and Customs Union.”
Notes to editors
“Busting the Lexit Myths” can be read here: http://openbrita.in/BWyKYo
The pamphlet addresses the following ‘myths’:
Austerity and the claim it is a consequence of EU membership
Catherine West MP writes: Austerity in the UK is a political choice, made by the Government, and has nothing to do with the EU or Single Market rules. In fact, the reverse is true. Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union will cause an economic loss which will reduce tax receipts and therefore risks an extension or intensification of austerity.
State aid and the claim EU rules unfairly prohibit support for industry
Nick Donovan writes: Whether we are in or out of the Single Market, there is no escaping some form of state aid rules. Anti-subsidy rules will apply even if we traded solely on WTO rules, and they will be a feature of any but the most basic trade agreement with the EU, which doesn’t like to offer access to its markets to subsidised competitors.
Renationalisation and the claim that the EU would block it
Dr Andy Tarrant writes: The rules of the Single Market do not prevent public ownership. Indeed, national governments across the continent have ownership stakes in many sectors including energy, rail and water companies. It is also untrue to argue that Single Market membership would prevent nationalisation of the railways or of already privatised companies, or indeed of setting up new state-owned companies. Contrary to some claims, compensation for nationalisation is a matter for UK law informed by the European Convention of Human Rights not EU Law. So, the Single Market is not an impediment to a future Labour government introducing renationalising the railways or other key industries.
Immigration and the claim that EU membership prohibits labour market regulation
Richard Corbett MEP writes: It is vital that politicians understand and address public concerns about immigration. But leaving the Single Market primarily because of its provisions on freedom of movement would have a major economic and social cost. The overwhelming majority of EU migrants are working, bring innovation and energy to our economy, help fuel growth and make a net fiscal contribution, which allows us to invest in the public services and infrastructure we need. Despite the claims of many on both the left and the right, the negative impact of EU migration on public services and the wages and job prospects of UK-born workers is overstated. Where there are challenges, these can usually be addressed through domestic policies.
The NHS and the claim that we could finance a boost in health spending by leaving the EU
Dr Mike Galsworthy writes: The brutal reality is that Brexit is already depleting the NHS of staff, finances and frameworks of collaboration. It is setting us up for a trade deal with President Trump that could allow the American healthcare system to aggressively enter and privatise our NHS. Many of those leading Brexit have a long record of being pro-privatisation. An NHS broken by underfunding and Brexit is their opportunity.
Workers’ rights and the claim that EU protections are overstated and being eroded
Sarah Veale writes: Britain’s membership of the Single Market has been overwhelmingly positive for the rights of workers, driving up standards in the UK and preventing a race to the bottom across the continent. It has provided a vital bulwark against successive governments that wished to scrap key protections.
The environment and the claim that the EU’s policies prioritise growth over protection
Tom Burke writes: The EU has been an overwhelmingly positive force for the environment - strengthening legislation, preventing a race to the bottom and driving forward collective action on climate change. The framework of rules and regulations underpinning the Single Market is not, as some on the left have argued, a threat to the environment, but rather our best means of protecting it. Compounding the result of the referendum by choosing to leave the Single Market would be a mistake with terrible consequences for our ability to preserve the natural world.
Trade and the claim that leaving the EU will usher in an era of more progressive trade deals
(Lord) John Monks writes: There is no evidence to support the argument that the benefits of new trade agreements will compensate for the costs associated with leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. In fact, it is likely that an independent trade agenda will have a damaging economic impact, as negotiating new trade deals will take many years, and will involve major trade-offs for minimal reward.