With this crisis exploding at Westminster, the Labour Party has a crucial responsibility and a golden opportunity to make all the difference to what happens next.
Whether or not the next phase is to involve a General Election or the Peoples’ Vote, which many are now proposing, it is urgent for the Labour leadership to set out a much fuller, more convincing narrative as to its vision for the future of the UK with the EU and in the wider world.
Most importantly, it is now essential for Corbyn to explainunambiguously whether his outline proposals to date imply his wish to negotiate with the EU before or after the UK exits. The difference will, of course, be enormous.
In the meantime, as Corbyn constantly reminds us, the UK is’burning’, with growing levels of poverty and exclusion across the country, public services badly damaged, rising hate and racial tensions, and increasing uncertainty hitting jobs, the plans and prospects of small and larger firms, as well as our NHS and universities.
The clock has ticked and ticked. It is time for the Labourleadership to make clear its full commitment to propose the necessary extension of Article 50 so as to provide the necessary time to call another General Election or to arrange a second referendum with the option to remain in the EU. We now understand that the EU 27 are likely to agree to such an extension, provided that it is not to continue further negotiations but for the UK to hold an election or a referendum so as to confirm the definitive choice of the people of the UK as to the future they wish for.
The Labour leadership should not delay in setting out a full and convincing narrative for the future relationship with the EU to appeal both to Labour supporters, to citizens across the UK, as well as to partner political parties across Europe. This new narrative now needs to set out clearly the reforms required both in the EU and within the UK itself.
This is the moment for the talented new Welsh PM, Mark Drayford, to step forward to cooperate with Corbyn and his team. As the only Labour politician currently in power and leading a government in the UK, he is well placed to enrich the Labour narrative drawing on the clear positions formulated very clearly in the Welsh Government’s White Paper on Brexit.
8-point plan for Labour
I suggest that this narrative could include the following building blocks:
1. Maintain full and unfettered access to the EU’s Single Market, as a key driver for jobs throughout the EU and of the economic base from which to share the fruits of its success between Member States. In this context, seek clarification of the application of the EU rules and regulations governing State Aids and their implications for Labour plans to improve UK wide systems of transport.
2. Reinforce commitment to the principle of economic and social cohesion as a centrepiece of the EU strategy of development from 2021 to 2027, and transform the EU policies and funding into a massive new ‘Marshall Plan’ providing infrastructure and incentives to meet the needs of weaker regions and areas in the EU through pooling of the commitment of all Member States to shared solidarity.
Re-emphasise the objectives of EU policies and funding – ERDF/ESF etc – to generate more high-quality jobs and also to attack the growing levels of poverty and exclusion across Europe.
Match the EU principle of economic and social cohesion by embedding it as a parallel policy commitment within the UK to benefit the nations and regions of the UK through promotion of active regional policies to be determined on the basis of need.
3. Support the new initiatives to establish a stronger EU-wide Pillar of Social Rights and a European Labour Authority, based on promoting social dialogue and social partnership between employers and trade unions both at the EU and UK levels.
Commit to enhancing the present legal provisions and policies at EU level in relation to the rights of the disabled and ensure these are complemented at UK level.
4. Support strongly the planned expansion in 2021 to 2027 of the EU’s Horizon Research and Erasmus programmes, linked with prioritising within the UK investment in research and innovation, and lifelong learning and training, especially engaging SMEs. Drive an ambitious programme of university – industry-public service cooperation to exploit the opportunities and findings emerging from the EU’s research programme especially relating to climate change and health.
5. Commit the UK to full implementation with the EU of the Paris Summit conclusions and targets on climate change and environmental protection, and build stronger collaboration globally to this end.
6. Reaffirm the principles set out in Articles 48 and 49 of the EU Treaty which provide the right for a Member State to set the terms of its own migration policy and system. Within the UK put in place a fair and balanced migration policy and system which projects the UK as an open society. Reconfirm the conditions for entry and stay within the UK for purposes such as research, study, training and youth exchanges.
7. Reaffirm the UK commitment to upholding the Good Friday Agreement and to further cooperation with the EU to continue and further develop the EU’s programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
8. Confirm the importance of continued membership and participation of the UK in the European Investment Bank and develop a further programme of cooperation with it.
These suggestions are provided to contribute to developing a more comprehensive Labour narrative which would ensure that the people of the UK understand fully the direction of Labour policies whether it is through a General Election or a second and definitive referendum which appears more and more likely and necessary.
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