Brexit: what the Labour front bench has said

Submitted by martin on 9 January, 2019 - 3:55 Author: Martin Thomas
Labour and Brexit

On 9 November Jeremy Corbyn responded to the German magazine Der Spiegel:

"Spiegel: If you could stop Brexit, would you?

"Corbyn: We can't stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognize the reasons why people voted Leave".

On 18 November Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News: "Brexit has been triggered... We voted for Article 50 [the formal application for Brexit]... We couldn't stop it [Brexit]... I want to say to the Government... go back now [and renegotiate]..."

Pressed on whether "no Brexit" is better than "no deal", he said: "That's not an option we're going to be given".

On 21 November Labour shadow minister Richard Burgon told the BBC: "We are not attempting to stop Brexit".

The same day Newsnight (21 November) shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "Compromises have got to be made... We couldn't support the deal as it now stands [but] I live in hope; we'll see what comes out of this weekend... We're talking about finalising a deal, we're not talking about starting from scratch".

On the BBC a week later McDonnell said: "If [an early general election] is not possible, we'll be calling upon the government then to join us in a public vote. It's difficult to judge each stage, but that's the sequence I think that we'll inevitably go through over this period."

On 30 November (Talk Radio) John McDonnell added: "The ballot paper will be determined by Parliament. It’s difficult to see Parliament deciding if there is to be a choice that they wouldn’t have at least some sort of Remain option on there. But it will be determined by Parliament if we get to that state".

Asked on 13 November (LBC): "If there were another referendum how would you vote?", McDonnell had replied: "I’d vote for Remain like I did last time".

That is the most positive reference from the Labour leadership in recent weeks on a new public vote. It is a long way from campaigning for a vote to defeat Brexit.

On 6 December Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Guardian:

"Labour could do a better Brexit deal. Give us the chance... May is claiming that defeat for her deal means no deal or no Brexit, because there is no viable alternative. That is false. Labour's alternative plan would unlock the negotiations for our future relationship with the EU and allow us to move away from such a damaging backstop.

"A new, comprehensive customs union with the EU, with a British say in future trade deals, would strengthen our manufacturing sector... And it would deal with the large majority of problems the backstop is designed to solve.

"Second, a new and strong relationship with the single market that gives us frictionless trade, and the freedom to rebuild our economy and expand our public services – while setting migration policies to meet the needs of the economy...

"Lastly, we want to see guarantees that existing EU rights at work, environmental standards and consumer protections will become a benchmark to build on".

On 9 December Jeremy Corbyn told ITV that the Tories should "go back, negotiate something that is acceptable, which does protect rights and conditions, which does give us that trade access, or they've got to get out of the way, have an election so that it will be a government here that will be serious about those negotiations".

On 13 December Angela Rayner told the BBC:

"Saying that we'll just have a second referendum and everything will be fine, I think, is a very serious position and it undermines democracy in itself... People made the decision and you can't keep going back saying: Would you like to answer it a different way?"

On 16 December Rebecca Long-Bailey told Sophy Ridge on Sky News:

"In terms of my own personal position, I think we need to respect the referendum. As I say, I think that there is a deal that can be struck within Parliament that brings everybody together, that respects the views and wishes of communities whether they voted Leave or Remain...

"In an extreme situation, if that is not possible, I... wouldn't rule out a people's vote at some point".

And on 21 December Jeremy Corbyn said: "I think we should vote down this deal; we should then go back to the EU with a discussion about a customs union..." Asked specifically about Labour's line if a second referendum is called, he said: "it would be a matter for the party to decide what the policy would be; but my proposal at this moment is that we go forward, trying to get a customs union with the EU, in which we would be able to be proper trading partners".

On 6 January Barry Gardiner said, in what Skwawkbox called a "perfect exposition" of Labour front bench policy:

"Labour will fight for a general election – and will go to the people on a plan to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU, which the EU will accommodate because of a new government coming to the table without May’s impossible, mutually-incompatible red lines".

Gardiner’s personal opinion, said Skwawkbox, "is that it might then make sense to put the new deal to the people – but it would be a deal that would aim to unite the UK".

On 10 January Jeremy Corbyn spoke in Wakefield.

"Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal for our country and Labour will vote against it next week in Parliament...

"If the government cannot pass its most important legislation then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity... Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success".

Corbyn's objections to the Tories' deal were not about the fundamentals, or the fact that it abolishes free movement. They were stated as: "this Tory deal allows workers' rights and environmental protections to fall behind minimum European basic standards... [and] Theresa May’s refusal to countenance negotiating a new customs union is based on the Tory dream of a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump..."

[In fact the Tories' declaration on future relations (after the "transition period" during which EU standards all still apply) talks about a "level playing field" with the EU on workers' rights and environmental protections. It's vague, and the Tories may renege, but... Trump responded to the Tories' withdrawal formula sourly, by saying that it meant that the UK "would not be able to trade with us" (the USA)].

Corbyn's conclusion: "The alternative deal Labour has proposed is practical and achievable, and clearly has the potential to command majority support in parliament. But it is not an end in itself. The task of the Labour party and the Labour movement is the long-overdue transformation of our country.

"We will bring people together by addressing the deep-seated and common problems across our country and fulfilling the aspirations that led people to vote both leave or remain".

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.