If May wants to deliver Brexit she must embrace Labour’s customs union plan

We have had 24 months of political games over Brexit. A non-stop melody of fantasy plans and partisan politics has got us, predictably, nowhere. If the Prime Minister wants to deliver on the referendum it’s time she embraced the only credible plan available. Labour’s Customs Union Brexit.

Last July, when May’s original plan was rejected by the EU it seemed obvious to me that softening her plan to negotiating a customs union was the only logical option. In fact, I wrote this article spelling out the advantages of Labour’s plan. May had already adopted Labour’s suggestions on a transitional period involving staying in the single market. May wanted tariff-free trade but her first attempts to gain it via part access to the single market was strongly rebuffed. God this seems like ancient history doesn’t it.

Instead, she kicked the can down the road. Opting to let the clock tick down, whilst constantly justling with the demands and wishes of her extremist backbenchers, who week by week threatened to take her down.

I will not accept No Deal and I am sure Parliament won’t either. I would fear for our futures if the people who decide our economic policy would wave through a No Deal Brexit predicted to cause us £900 million in economic damage in 2019 alone.

Despite this No Deal is looking a likely option, it is time for the grown-ups to take control of negotiations. Labour and Keir Starmer have had the solution for a long time now.

At this stage, a Brexit plan must deliver on 3 objectives:

1. It must be accepted by Parliament.

2. It must be accepted by the EU

3. It must be grounded in a view that doesn’t involve some sort of Blitz spirit.

May’s plan failed because it cannot and never will fulfil objective 1 and 2 at the same time. The EU believes the backstop to be neccesary while Tory Brexiteers view it as unacceptable.

Labour’s plan can pass these tests. Working backwards it is grounded in reasonable economic logic. Tariff-free access to the single market will mitigate the damage in our manufacturing sector and while it will make the UK’s economy weaker the damage will be tiny in comparison to a No Deal Brexit.

The EU would also accept Labour’s deal. Michel Barnier has said the EU is ”
open to creating a customs union with the UK ” and more critically still
Jean-Claude Juncker has told Theresa May that to remove the backstop from her Brexit deal she would need to shift to wanting a customs union.

Parliament is the tricky part. Even with the backstop removed hard Brexiteers won’t vote for a customs union with the EU. If Labour proposes this deal it won’t pass either. May has whipped against every attempt to deliver a customs unions post Brexit purely because Labour thought of it first. However, if the Prime Minister adopts it as her policy it would pass the house. Labour can’t conceivably vote against their own proposals while maintaining they will deliver on the referendum.

The mathematics behind this is simple. At present 147 MPs are strict followers of Labour’s Brexit policy, 191 Tory MPs are followers of May’s. Given that the DUP are likely to vote for such a plan this puts the deal comfortably over the top.

May should stop grandstanding about delivering Brexit. If she wants to do it she should embrace Labour’s plan. If not she should send us back to the polls.


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