Why I'm calling on the Labour leadership to back the single market
PUBLISHED: 12:28 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:29 18 May 2018
At a time when Labour is putting so much emphasis on becoming a movement-led party it is conspicuous that Brexit is left out, says JASMIN BECKETT
Labour’s direction on Brexit is fraught. As former foreign secretary David Miliband described it this week, the policy runs the risk of our party becoming a ‘midwife to Brexit’. Many at the top seem to believe the best electoral strategy is to appeal to Leave voters by nodding through entire swathes of the Tories’ Brexit plans while hoping that Jeremy Corbyn’s enormously pro-European base won’t notice. It is unlikely to please either group, but will satisfy a small number of longstanding Eurosceptics who have influence over Labour policy.
This will not hold forever. The Labour leadership recently made a welcome U-turn on the customs union, supporting our membership beyond the transition period. A similar move on the single market is not forthcoming – without which a hard border will be erected in Ireland and the hard-won peace and prosperity put at risk.
But Labour members overwhelming support staying in the single market. Eighty-seven per cent of my fellow members agree with me and the majority of the parliamentary party on that. The Labour-voting public is not far behind. Eight out of 10 Labour voters support a ‘people’s vote’ – that would put the final Brexit deal before the people.
Labour’s position is the result of members not having their say. At Labour party conference last year and Scottish Labour conference earlier this, the Momentum leadership and elements of the Labour leadership conspired to keep Brexit off the agenda. Members did not even get to engage shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer in a question and answer session, let alone a vote on the policy.
This cannot continue. The deal is coming to parliament in October. Other close Brexit votes will be held soon before, as Theresa May continues to kick the can down the road. A national gathering of Labour members and trade unions in September is the perfect place – and the last chance – for the labour movement to discuss Brexit.
This is why my fellow centre-left candidates for the National Executive Committee and I have launched LabourSay.EU. Party members can influence the direction of Brexit, and if you support the effort please sign up now.
I will be at conference calling on the Labour leadership to back the single market. I will also be arguing that if May’s deal does not promise the ‘exact same benefits’ to the UK economy then parliament – with the support of Labour frontbenchers and backbenchers alike – should put the deal to the public. Equally, I know others – like the Labour Remain and Labour Against Brexit groups – will be arguing to stop Brexit, while others will say we have to honour the result whatever the consequences. That is the benefit of deciding our policy at Labour party conference – it is not those who shout loudest that win, but those with the most votes.
At a time when so much emphasis is put on becoming a movement-led party, where members can have the first and final say on policy, it is conspicuous that Brexit is left out. Rather than simply ask why, we have to organise, and put enough pressure on those who wish to sweep it under the carpet that it can no longer be ignored. We have to have our say.
Time is running out. September 2018 is the last chance for Labour members to have their say on an issue that will shape the country for not just the next four years, but the next 30 or even 100. We have just three months to make the case, and our voices must be heard.
Jasmin Beckett is standing for the Labour Party NEC and is co-founder of LabourSay.EU trying the secure a vote on Brexit at Labour party conference