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Pete Lawrence - 26 Feb 2018


"Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union... with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections,"

Jeremy Corbyn laid out Labour's Brexit plan today in Coventry, shifting the party's position on Europe to draw a clear line in the sand between the two major political parties for the first time.

It was a speech that was well received by business leaders, eager for clarification at a time when many are stalling their own plans because of the uncertainty involved

The BBC reported it as follows:

"Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed the UK being in a permanent customs union with the EU in a speech setting out his approach to Brexit.

He said this would avoid the need for a "hard border" in Northern Ireland and ensure free-flowing trade for business.

The policy shift could lead to Labour siding with Tory rebels to defeat Theresa May on her Brexit strategy.

The Tories said it was "a cynical attempt" to frustrate Brexit "and play politics with our country's future".

Mr Corbyn insisted in an interview with BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg that his speech was a "firming up" of Labour's
existing policy and that he did not want the UK to follow the Norway model, ending up bound by EU rules but having very little say in them."

BBC's Laura Kuenssberg interview

Other reactions

"Jeremy Corbyn has become a pragmatist, and pragmatists always win" Tom Peck, The Independent

"Corbyn has put enough distance between himself and the Tories to vote against the Brexit deal without compromising his core Euroscepticism." George Eaton, New Statesman

"Backing a customs union and not the single market may not be Labour’s final line on Brexit – but it is a good one for now" The Fabian society

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech timing is significant because is raises the possibility of Labour and the other opposition parties lining up with Tory rebels to defeat the government. Conservative pro-European Anna Soubry tabled a new version of her amendment to the trade bill last week, new clause 5 (NC5), designed to maximise support for this cause. Eight Tory MPs have signed it. Given that the Tory/DUP working majority is generally put at 13, that is enough to engineer a defeat.

But The Guardian suggests that Corbyn may have moved too soon. "The government has signalled it will postpone the vote until after Easter, and this afternoon two of the Tories who signed the Soubry amendment played down suggestions they will actually vote for it."

LABOUR BREXITEER Frank Field has claimed Jeremy Corbyn's latest speech on leaving the EU was "Blairism at its best"

How has Labour shifted?  Here's The Guardian's digest:

How has the Labour position shifted?

Labour’s 2017 manifesto said merely that the party wanted to retain “the benefits of the single market and the customs union”, and did not say the UK should stay in either. In recent months, however, a series of senior Labour figures have argued for the UK to be in “a” customs union post-Brexit.

What’s the difference between “a” customs union and “the” customs union?

Labour says the latter is the existing arrangement, which ends when we leave the EU, and that “a” union could retain the bulk of
the benefits without overly tying the UK to rules made in Brussels. Critics, mainly in the government, argue that this could be
seen as Labour’s own version of an unrealistic “cake and eat it” approach.

Why has Labour's position moved?

Corbyn has never seemed that keen on the customs union, but he has faced pressure both from members of his team – the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has played a key role – and the fact that the majority of Labour members support customs union and single
market membership. There is also the incentive that Labour could defeat the government in the Commons by voting with Tory rebels on an amendment to back the customs union.

Paul Mason, writing in inews

"While the move itself is just a tweak to Labour’s existing position, politically it is massive. It means people who want to limit the economic damage from Brexit have a clear alternative to the Brexit dreamed of by Farage and Rees-Mogg. And it respects the decision of the majority who voted to leave the EU. Hard as it may be for people who want to overturn the referendum result, it asks them to accept that’s not going to happen, and to back Labour’s fight to put a close trading relationship with Europe as the main priority for the government.

Corbyn, effectively has done the equivalent of throwing a treble 20 at darts, leaving himself one more tricky but doable shot to become prime minister.

Last June’s election result shows there is no majority for a hard Brexit in the country. Nor does it exist in parliament. Now there’s a clear Labour alternative to the Tory position, it becomes possible for those within the Conservative party who want to keep British goods trading freely across Europe to ally with Labour and defeat Theresa May. If they do so, she has to go. Above all, for me, Labour’s new position allows us to start bridging the divides. For many die-hard Remainers, support for the EU has become an issue of identity, symbolising everything that is open, global and progressive in their lives. By insisting that Brexit voters were “stupid” or “misled” – which is a euphemism for stupid – they’ve allowed right-wing tabloid newspapers to stoke up an American-style culture war between progressives and conservatives.

Read more at:

Here is the text of the speech in full:

Neal Lawson (Compass) "Labour needs to shift from the politics of the Big Tent, with everyone under its suffocating roof, to the politics of the campsite, in which progressive parties, movements and organisations keep their identities but coordinate and help others. The party could be the biggest tent in a new ecosystem with the power to transform our country."



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