Labour needs to advocate a unity Brexit. A Brexit that is in line with our anti-racist principles, whilst speaking to many people’s anxiety about change. The Labour Welsh Assembly and Paul Mason have put forward plans that offer a way to combine single market membership alongside considering people’s anxieties.
These changes are the start of a democratic socialist approach to Brexit. Labour is currently proposing amendments to article 50 bill. Though protecting workers’ rights and the environment are integral to our future, Labour should put forward amendments to the bill that puts forward an alternative proposition to a Tory hard Brexit that would take us out of the single market.
Labour needs to fight for single market membership and not give up on freedom of movement. We need to hold the Tories to account over what their plans are over migration. In the light of the Trump refugee plan it is more important than ever to stand up for our anti-racist principles. This is why Labour amendments need to scrutinise what Conservative policy will be on migration. There has been no detail given in the white paper as to how Theresa May seeks to curb migration, or what system will we move to once we leave.
People say this is the beginning of the process and that we will be able to adjust it when we come to the final vote. But adjust it to what? Labour asserts they want “tariff free access to the single market”. So does every country in the world. As Labour has assisted in triggering article 50 in its current state, and even after their amendments, when we come to the final vote we will just be discussing different forms association with the custom’s union.
Do we have a Turkish model or the Canadian model? Or the holy grail: our own bespoke Canadian plus.
If on the third reading we sign up on the Conservative terms for Brexit we will be blamed if the economy heads into recession. Labour have fallen into the Tories trap as they did with the welfare reform bill. A recent Fabian report shows Labour is in fact losing most voters, 400,000, to the Liberal Democrats. Labour are heading to a position where few urban or market town seats are safe.
Labour should not be dividing their own ranks, but in fact causing a crisis within the Tories party. There are reports that there are up to 80 Tories MP supporters who wish to remain within the single market. Labour should be putting forward amendments to the article 50 bill which allow Tories such as Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve to rebel. We should be exposing the existential fault-line in the Conservative party that has existed every since 1886 when the Liberal Unionists joined the Tories: between differing notions of sovereignty.
If we move to divide the conservative party this would put us into a much stronger position if there is an early election or one in 2020.
But we can find a platform that will unite us. We don’t have to accept the inevitability of a hard Brexit. We don’t have to accept the Conservative view of the world. A country in retreat that would hark back to the 1950’s. People don’t completely reject migration. People don’t want to be worse off. People don’t want to lose their NHS. People want independence.
Labour with the welfare state gave people true independence for the first time in their lives. Independence from poverty, sickness and unemployment. Labour can offer people independence again.
Labour must place before the Commons a unity Brexit where Labour states it wants to remain in the single market whilst we acknowledge people concerns about migration. That is what the Labour Welsh assembly proposals starts tackling. This is what our pitch to the country should be. Not a blank cheque for a Tory government to take us down a road where we are a dependent nation.
Dependent on America who would seek to asset strip our NHS. A Tory hard Brexit will take away our independence. We must fight for our democratic socialist principles.
Sam Pallis is a Labour activist and writer, you can follow him on twitter @SamPallis