Labour movement unites to back Single Market & Customs Union membership on eve of Conference

Politicians, trades unionists and groups from every wing of the Labour movement have today come together to call on the Party in an open letter to the Observer to unite behind membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union, on the eve of Labour’s annual conference which begins in Brighton on Sunday.

In a letter jointly organised by Open Britain and the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, people from the length and breadth of the Party including MPs Chuka Umunna, Alison McGovern, Heidi Alexander and Clive Lewis, along with TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes, former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson call on the Party to “have the courage of its convictions” on Brexit. They call for “a clear alternative to the Tories’ destructive Brexit”, and say that it is “unsustainable to say we are an anti-austerity party” while being in favour of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union.

Signatories include over 30 MPs, seven members of the European Parliament, two serving trade union general secretaries, a former general secretary of the TUC, local government leaders and senior peers. 

The signatories also defend the benefits of immigration, saying Labour should “put an end to the exploitation of workers, not freedom of movement.”

Of Labour’s current position, they say “we must now go further” than Labour’s current position of supporting Single Market and Customs Union membership only as a transition. They say: “At our Conference this week, Labour should commit to staying in the Single Market and Customs Union – ruling out no options for how to achieve this.” 

Brexit is expected to be a core issue at Labour Conference this year. Dozens of Constituency Labour Parties have submitted contemporary motions for debate, calling on Labour to stand up for both the free movement of people and membership of the Single Market. 

The open letter is as follows:

“As organisations and politicians from across the Labour movement, we are writing to urge the Labour Party to have the courage of its convictions on Brexit. 

“We have watched with dismay as the Government has used a narrow referendum result to justify an extreme approach to Brexit, a scapegoating of EU migrants, and a Westminster power grab that would undermine both the sovereignty of parliament and the devolution settlement. Nobody voted to make themselves or their family poorer, to put jobs, rights and livelihoods at risk, or to reduce the opportunities of future generations.

“The supposed benefits of a clean break with the EU are a fantasy. The economic impact of leaving the Single Market would hit the most vulnerable in our society hardest. Vital employment and environmental protections would be placed at the whim of this or any future Tory government. And being outside the Customs Union would mean masses of new red tape, a desperate scramble for trade agreements and the re-emergence of a border in Ireland.

“Underlying the Government’s hard Brexit plan is an undeliverable and damaging promise to cut net migration to the tens of thousands. 

“Labour must be clear: migrants are not to blame for falling wages, job insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services. Addressing these issues is already in the gift of the Government, and crashing the economy in order to deter migrants from coming here is no way to deal with people’s concerns. Instead, we must build on Labour's 2017 ‘For the Many’ manifesto by making sectoral collective bargaining a reality, ending bogus self-employment and introducing a real living wage.

“So at our Conference this week, Labour should commit to staying in the Single Market and Customs Union – ruling out no options for how to achieve this – and to working with sister parties and others across Europe to improve workers’ rights, boost trade union membership and put an end to the exploitation of workers, not freedom of movement.

“This would send a powerful message of solidarity to the rest of Europe, and to the millions of EU and UK nationals living in limbo here and across the continent.

“Labour is right to argue for a transitional period as we leave the EU, but we must now go further. It is simply unsustainable to say we are an anti-austerity party but that we would jeopardise ties with our biggest trading partner. For the sake of jobs, public services, peace in Ireland and the rights of everyone who calls the UK home, we must offer a clear alternative to the Tories’ destructive Brexit.”


Notes to editors:

Full list of signatories:

Heidi Alexander MP and Alison McGovern MP, co-chairs of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market

Francis Grove-White, Deputy Director of Open Britain

Chuka Umunna MP, Chairman of Vote Leave Watch

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musician’s Union

John Monks, Former General Secretary of the TUC

Angela Eagle MP

David Lammy MP

Clive Lewis MP

Chris Bryant MP

Stephen Doughty MP

Neil Coyle MP

Gavin Shuker MP

Tulip Siddiq MP

Kate Green MP

Mike Gapes MP

Maria Eagle MP

Karen Buck MP

Darren Jones MP

Ben Bradshaw MP

Stella Creasy MP

Ann Coffey MP

Catherine West MP

Peter Kyle MP

Phil Wilson MP

Catherine McKinnell MP

Madeleine Moon MP

Ruth Cadbury MP

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP

Angela Smith MP

Ian Murray MP

Pat McFadden MP

Kerry McCarthy MP

Daniel Zeichner MP

Stephen Timms MP

Rushanara Ali MP

Rup Huq MP

Barry Sheerman MP

Wes Streeting MP

Richard Corbett MEP

Seb Dance MEP

David Martin MEP

Clare Moody MEP

Mary Honeyball MEP

Theresa Griffin MEP

Catherine Stihler MEP

Lord Hain

Lord Adonis

Lord Liddle

Lord Cashman 

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council