With the threat of a 2018 General Election looming large, and Brexit still looking to be a key topic of debate, it is prudent to look at exactly what a Labour Brexit would look like. Labour’s Left-wing Brexit policy is the thoughtful, socialist policy which will best benefit the country and fulfil the mandate from the 23rd of June 2016.
The Remain campaign sometimes made the case that the Government ought to concern itself with transforming the EU. Now that we are leaving, rather than naively taking on the herculean task of reforming this international political superstructure, those efforts can instead be spent on reforming our domestic politics at home. This is crucial for many reasons, not least of which because Brexit is required for us to implement our radical 2017 manifesto, as Corbyn and McDonnell have repeatedly stated.
Remainers often argue that this isn’t the case, gesturing to the national rail services of France, or other countries. These arguments typically gloss over the fact that these national rail services are not monopoly public services. Under EU law is it possible for us to create and maintain integrated, monopoly public services? The answer is no. Within the EU contracts must always be offered to the private sector, which always ends in a cost-cutting race to the bottom that comes at the public’s expense.
As has been made increasingly clear over the past few weeks it is going to take a lot of infrastructure investment to get our rail services back into a decent state. We make some of the materials that will be required for this infrastructure in the UK, so we ought to be using them and supporting our own industries, right? Well, we can’t. EU procurement law specifies that alongside contracts having to be open to the entire EU, the criteria means contracts must go to the “lowest price only” and the “most economically advantageous tender”. This means that an incredible opportunity to revitalise key industries such as British steel could be missed, and the democratic localism pioneered by the Preston council is made incredibly difficult. The Preston model of local procurement and investment is very much on John McDonnell’s radar, but it would not be able to be implemented on a national level while we are still subject to EU law.
Senior figures on the Labour right are oft calling for a commitment to Single Market (SM) membership, but this is bad policy. Centre and centre-right politicians and thinkers argue that the SM gives us freer trade with the EU, which will increase GDP, something that is ultimately good for ordinary families. This free market ideological dogma is incorrect for a variety of reasons, but most importantly it ignores the fact that as the economy grows there are winners and losers. This is clear when one looks at the disparity in growth between regions. In fact, many economists attest that in an advanced economy, the freer the trade the more wages are squeezed by the outsourcing of industry and labour. This is exactly what can be seen when we look at how the SM works in practice. This brings us onto immigration; we cannot control immigration from the EU while inside the Single Market, accepting Freedom of Movement, which ought to be understood primarily as an economic freedom. The evidence is clear, in the words of economist and author of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism Ha-Joon Chang
“Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else, including any minimum wage legislation. How is the immigration maximum determined? Not by the ‘free’ labour market, which, if left alone, will end up replacing 80–90 percent of native workers with cheaper, and often more productive, immigrants.”
If we want to give Britain and the British people a pay rise, then we have to control immigration, and if we want to control immigration we have to be outside the SM. But it must be said that this isn’t just about Britain, as Freedom of Movement, like all economic freedoms, has had intrinsically exploitative consequences. Every time you see a member of the Labour right celebrating a nurse or a doctor coming to work in the NHS, remember that is a nurse or doctor who was trained by the taxpayers of another country. Our health service is not the only health service struggling. Through our membership of the Single Market, we are complicit in skills shortages in countries much poorer than our own. To put this in perspective; polls of Bulgarian medical students show 80–90% plan to emigrate after graduating, Latvia has lost a quarter of its working age population since 2000 and Romania lost a third of its doctors between 2011 and 2013 alone. We claim to be redistributionists, but we turn a blind eye to labour redistribution from Eastern to Western Europe.
We laid out our policy on a Customs Union (CU) in late February. Corbyn has committed to remaining in a Customs Union for many reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it is key to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Preventing the breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement is an absolute necessity for the security of the region, and is something which the Conservatives have acted in reckless ignorance of. On top of this, Labour’s line on a CU is also far more pro-industry, something that was shown by the support received from the Confederation of British Industry and Trade Unions. Again, Corbyn is being pragmatic and considered where Theresa May has dangerously capitulated to the demands of ideological backbenchers. National Security and the Economy are two areas on which Labour is often attacked, but the pledge to stay in the CU is evidence enough when it comes to security and economy Corbyn is the only adult in the room.
Only a combination of law reform, leaving the Single Market and staying in a Customs Union can deliver a Brexit that provides for working people. Fighting the next General Election with this strong Brexit policy can only end with Jeremy Corbyn handed the keys to Downing Street, ready to deliver the Labour government that this country so desperately needs.