Eventually the Party will have the come off the Brexit fence. When it does it should choose the economy over sovereigntyby Peter Kellner / June 6, 2018 / Leave a comment
We shall come to the politics of Labour’s latest Brexit policy in a moment. Meanwhile, let us consider the substance.
Labour has tabled the following amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill:
“It shall be a negotiating objective of Her Majesty’s Government to ensure the United Kingdom has full access to the internal market of the European Union, underpinned by shared institutions and regulations, with no new impediments to trade and common rights, standards and protections as a minimum.”
The amendment is new, but the underlying policy is not. In last year’s election manifesto, the party promised
“a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union—which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.”
The new amendment uses different words but sets out much the same objective. British industry would obey the same rules as the 27 countries remaining in the EU. As a result it would enjoy frictionless trade. The Irish border would remain open; lorries would not be delayed at Dover.
One of the objections to this is that the UK would become a rule-taker, not a rule-maker: we would have to apply whatever regulations agreed by the EU. Far from “taking back control,” the UK would have less say in what happens at home than it does now. In Jacob Rees Mogg’s vivid language, the UK would become a “vassal state.”
Labour responds in its new amendment by proposing “shared institutions and regulations.” These would give us a seat at the rule-making table. It is an alternative to an amendment passed by the House of Lords, on which Labour is asking its MPs to abstain. This proposes that the UK should remain a member of the European Economic Area, alongside Norway. We would then be subject to what Norwegians describe as “fax democracy”—simply being told what to do by Brussels whenever it wishes to implement a new directive. Labour’s amendment is design to avoid that trap.
Here’s the problem. There is one, and only one, way of continuing to have a say in Customs Union and Single Market rules. That is to remain a member of the EU. If we leave the EU, we shall lose our seat at the table. The notion that the…