Labour and the EU



From member David Tiplady


We are now nearly 10 months away from formally exiting the EU and entering a transition period of still to be defined length. This transition period reflects the reality that the terms of our future relationship with the EU have not been defined so an adaption period is essential.

We all know that no substantive detail on the nature of our future relationship have been published. A major factor in that is that the government is unwilling to deliver specifics because of its own internal splits. I guess the treasury and the other derided “experts” all governments rely on to forecast the impacts of decisions are regularly warning them about the impacts of leaving. This is inevitably at odds with the Brexiteers who roundly criticised such sources and clearly this friction is one Theresa May is trying to keep under control.

My view is that the government will remain in fudge mode until and during the transition so as to avoid their splits bringing on another election.

In the meantime then the obvious economic impacts so far are a significant drop in economic growth since the referendum and a substantial increase in inflation. The loss of tax take due to the lower growth currently stands at about £10 billion less in much-needed revenues and the impact of inflation has left most workers and pensioners worse off over the last 20 months. There remains no fact based evidence that this will improve as Brexit proceeds under this government. The pound and business confidence demonstrably rises the softer the Brexit being floated which is an excellent indicator as to business and financial markets’ view of the economic case for Brexit.

The social impacts are also disturbing with the legitimising of hostility towards immigrants which was clear throughout the referendum campaign. At the branch meetings I have attended recently there were anecdotal reports of European workers living in this country feeling unwelcome and feeling their contributions to our society being denigrated. I believe the current view expressed by the party’s leader that free movement of people within the EU should stop is against the spirit of the Labour Party. When has it been acceptable for us to hold these migrants responsible for their workplace exploitation or the failure of both central and local government to address any increased local demands they create on public services whilst happily banking their tax and service contributions? We should always challenge the view that the victim is the guilty party in our society and Labour has traditionally taken the lead on this.The recent debate on anti semitism in the party has hinged on this point.

There are also increasing international reasons to retain close links with the EU with the unambiguous criminal behaviours of the Russian state in Salisbury, in Syria and in the Ukraine leading the case. The isolationist tendency in the current US administration also underlines this need to retain our European alliances. Whilst the UN remains crucial then it is clearly hobbled by the Russian veto on any challenge to its foreign crimes.

Locally then continued links with Europe remain vital, from the migrant workers who staff our tourism industry and care providers through the grants to local agriculture and the contribution of visiting students to our local universities (particularly Sheffield). We also have a world class engineering company in Rolls Royce and a large car maker in Toyota within the county both of whom are best served by tariff free access within the EU.

It appeared to me at the Branch meetings that the majority of members attending had opposed Brexit and still believe it has been a mistake. The various opinion polls also indicate that the membership remain pro Remain and the post referendum analysis indicated that Labour voters supported Remain by a significant margin.

The Labour Party needs therefore to move beyond simply marking the government’s homework with Keir Starmer’s principles but move to fighting for the retention of full membership of the single market as a minimum going forward. On what other policy issue do we mark the governments performance without offering a vision of what we believe in? In these blog pages then we have seen not simply criticism of government policies but positive suggestions for government priorities on those policy areas. This must be the aim of an opposition, to offer clear alternatives not equal levels of fudge or simple mud slinging.

If we do this then we are putting clear water between us and the government fudging and are also publicly accepting the importance workers from other European countries deliver to our society. There will be the inevitable challenge in addressing the concerns of those of our voters who are worried by immigration and also the valid criticism of ignoring their views. However the Labour Party has a history of leading peoples’ thinking on society’s concerns so we have an excellent set of precedents to follow which includes the abolition of the death penalty and the sexual offences legislation both in the 1960s when public opinion was not in favour as I remember as a young Labour Party supporter. I know there are valid concerns on how far society has moved forward on such issues but public opinion has changed for the better due the position the Party took all those years ago.

Criticism welcome as always.



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