There is a very good chance that the party will only make it back into power after the UK has already left the EU. So let's work on new, progressive ideas for our new situationby Ellie Groves / November 1, 2017 / Leave a comment
That young people will be the most affected by Brexit, but overwhelmingly did not vote to leave the EU, remains one of the greatest political injustices of recent years. To make matters worse, we now appear to be flirting with the idea of a damaging “no deal” Brexit, led by a Conservative government which was also rejected by the overwhelming number of young people.
The Cameron Conservative government did not prepare for Brexit, going as far as to refuse studiously to plan for would happen if we woke up on June 24th with a vote to leave. May’s government then ran headlong into calling for Article 50—before immediately delaying any negotiations by calling an election, with the misguided intention of solidifying power.
So what should Labour—and those on the left who supported Remain—do with the situation presented to them with increasingly calamitous clarity every day? It is not good enough to hope for the best—that Brexit magically won’t happen.
It is also not enough to secretly hold out for the worst: that Brexit is so bad people throw their hands up and say they were wrong all along. While some hope that Labour could stop Brexit, there is a very good chance that the party will only make it back into power after the UK has already left the EU.
Labour prides itself on making things better for the country; it should not be sitting around wanting things to crash and burn but rather should be offering something positive.
Much of thinking on the old Remain side has so far, rightly, gone into how to make the case for a soft Brexit which would allow us to remain in various European institutions: the Single Market; the Customs Union; the ECJ. But the reality of Brexit is so much greater than a single continuum between “hard” and “soft.”
Labour needs to start thinking now about a vision for post-Brexit Britain which is not just about which shade of EU “membership” to have, but about how to build make the best of our new situation with fresh ideas.
For this reason, the Young Fabians have this week published a pamphlet laying out policy proposals for Jeremy Corbyn and his team to examine in the run up to Brexit, and ultimately calls for the Labour Party to prepare to make the best of it—as well as to limit any disruption which will occur in the wake.
The proposals focus on how government can make lives better as we face different threats and disruptions to industry. One proposal is for a new Ministry for Technology in Whitehall which will allow us to maintain a high standard of data protection law and keep control over the data we produce—an important consideration as new, disruptive industries make our lives increasingly tech-driven.
There are also new ways to work in partnership with EU countries. One suggestion, for instance, examines the often overlooked consequence of Brexit on the UK art scene. Making an exhibiting work abroad is an important part of gaining a profile. By bringing in reciprocal visa agreements for artists, working collaboratively with EU governments, we can make this process smoother—whatever other visa agreements the UK eventually ends up with.
Overwhelmingly, the ideas highlight that the UK can be creative and learn from past policies. For instance, a progressive approach to immigration could be achieved with an improved Regional Immigration Fund and compulsory registration of EU migrants after three months.
This would help local authorities better understand their levels of immigration, and what pressure this may addd to their local services, while allowing for the migration cap to be removed so that necessary workers and specialists are not turned away.
And when looking to the wider world, we should focus on the same principles we look to domestically. For Labour, this might mean making trade deals which focus on local communities and trade unions in other countries, with the overall goal for furthering human rights through a sensitive, rather than top-down approach.
The current negotiations are best summed up by the staged picture from the first round of talks: the EU with reams of paper, the UK with none. The Labour Party should be thinking about Brexit and anyone in government should be sitting around that table with reams of paper. “Brexit means Brexit” is a funny trope, but nowhere near good enough for this country and the people in it.
You can read the full pamphlet here.