Today, at the Labour manifesto launch, leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that his party had a plan to make ‘Brexit work for ordinary people.’
British voters must choose, he said, between two very different types of Brexit: a Labour Brexit ‘that puts jobs first, or a Tory Brexit that will be geared towards the interests of the City of London and risk making Britain a low-wage tax haven.’
Many undecided voters on the left are weighing up a different choice, however, between voting for Labour and voting for the Liberal Democrats.
While the Lib Dems have come out in favour of holding a second referendum on the final deal, Labour have been criticised for their unclear stance on Brexit, the defining issue of this election.
The proposals outlined today have the potential to make or break the Labour campaign.
So, in amongst the scrapping of tuition fees, tax hikes, and nationalisation of industry, what is Labour’s Brexit strategy?
We have distilled all the relevant pledges from their manifesto – which is the 3rd longest in the party’s history – so that you don’t have to.
Labour won’t fight the referendum result, but will seek to build a ‘close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.’
They plan to:
‘End Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit’ and instead prioritise ‘retaining the benefits of the Single Market and Customs Union.’ (Remember this for later).
Guarantee ‘existing rights’ for EU nationals in Britain, and ‘secure reciprocal rights’ for Brits living in the EU.
Reject ‘no deal’ as an option in the Brexit talks.
Continue to work with European nations on climate change, the refugee crisis, counter-terrorism, and other cross-border issues.
Maintain the UK’s ‘leading research role,’ and retain membership of European organisations such as Euratom and the European Medicines Agency.
Seek to ensure British students continue to participate in the Erasmus scheme.
Maintain food quality and welfare standards to keep Britain from being ‘flooded with cheap and inferior produce.’
Replace the Conservatives ‘Great Repeal Bill’ (link) with an ‘EU Rights and Protections Bill’ to safeguard ‘workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights and environmental protections.’
‘Power can feel just as remote and unaccountable in Westminster as it does in Brussels.’
Protect the EU-derived laws that benefit the UK, such as ‘workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections.’
Legislate to ensure that national security and criminal justice provisions are not jeopardised by Brexit.
Retain membership of Eurojust and Europol, and carry on with European Arrest Warrant Arrangements.
Negotiate a Brexit that benefits the whole of the UK by introducing ‘presumption of devolution,’ whereby EU powers will be devolved ‘to the relevant region or nation,’ because ‘power can feel just as remote and unaccountable in Westminster as it does in Brussels.’
Ensure no part of the UK feels the strain of the withdrawal of EU funding for the rest of this Parliament.
Labour would guarantee Parliament ‘a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.’
Make sure there is ‘no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and that there is no change in the status or sovereignty of Gibraltar.’
Welcome scrutiny, working with, not against Parliament. ‘On an issue of this importance the Government can’t hide from the public or Parliament,’ by guaranteeing it a ‘meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.’
Labour says it aims to prioritise ‘growth, jobs and prosperity’ in trade negotiations, and ‘makes no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.’
Britain’s immigration system must change, Labour claim, but they will ‘not scapegoat migrants nor blame them for economic failures,’ while stating that ‘freedom of movement will end.’ (Remember this, too).
They also aim to:
‘Implement fair immigration rules, and put an end to ‘indefinite detentions.’
Work with businesses to ‘identify specific labour and skill shortages’ and create new ‘migration management’ systems. This system could include ‘employer sponsorship, work permits and visa regulations.’
‘Refugees are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters.’
Protect the immigrants already working in the UK, raise their vocational skills and training, and end the migrant labour and workplace exploitation that ‘undercuts workers’ pay and conditions,’ by ‘cracking down on unscrupulous employers.’
Ring-fence public services instead of ‘pretending cuts are a consequence of immigration.’
Continue to welcome international students – who generate billions of pounds of income and help boost the economy, without including them in immigration numbers.
‘Uphold the proud British tradition of honouring international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees. Refugees are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters.’
Labour go on to say that they ‘values [migrants’] contributions, including their tax contributions.’
‘The UK’s future prosperity,’ says the Labour manifesto, ‘depends on minimising tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent us from exporting and creating the jobs and economic growth we need.’
Labour plans to:
Hold a ‘national debate’ on Britain’s future trade policy, making sure ‘transparency and parliamentary scrutiny are part of all future trade and investment deals.’
‘Retain unrestricted access for our goods and services.’*
*This would be a real bone of contention for the European Parliament, who stressed the ‘indivisibility of the four freedoms’ (freedom of movement, goods, trade and services) in their recent ‘Red Lines on Brexit’ statement.
This sentiment has also been echoed by Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Labour, however, wish to end to freedom of movement but keep the benefits of the Single Market, the Customs Union, and the same terms regarding goods and services.
They also plan to:
‘Work with global trading partners to develop free trade and investment agreements that remove trade barriers and promote skilled jobs and high standards.’
‘Build human rights and social justice into trade policy.’
Put an end to dumping on British markets.
Provide grants, as well as an ‘export incentive scheme,’ to help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises grow.
‘Boost British exports and support priority industrial sectors’ using ‘export credit, finance, insurance and trade promotion tools.’
Grow the digital economy and easy ‘cross-border data flows’ whilst ensuring national and personal data protection.
Invest in ‘new green technologies and innovative low-carbon products.’
Incentivise investment into the UK.
And finally, review international investment treaties and oppose ‘parallel investor-state dispute systems for multinational corporations.’
Funding. In total, the Labour Party has vowed to spend £48.6bn (BQ) in its new manifesto, which would be funded by extra tax revenue.
Theresa May has described the plan to finance the pledges as ‘nonsensical,’ saying the sums sounded like they had been ‘dreamt up by Diane Abbott.’
But perhaps we should move beyond this ‘accountancy’ approach, says Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation.
‘This manifesto is really about significantly increasing the tax take to spend significantly more, but rather than getting our calculators out, we should really be debating the desirability or otherwise of a larger state.’
‘The election itself will tell us whether or not it proves popular with the electorate, but there is at least a clear debate to be had. And you don’t need a calculator to have it.’