Labour’s two Brexit scenarios, as set out by trade unions

Labour-affiliated trade unions met today to discuss the party’s Brexit position. Pressure has been building on the leadership, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, to have a clear stance and back Remain – before being forced to do so by conference in September. But there has been resistance from Unite the Union general secretary Len McCluskey, as well as staffers in the leader’s office and dozens of Labour MPs. In addition to concerns about the potential electoral impact of such a shift, and the possible effect on popular faith in our democratic processes, opponents of ‘going full Remain’ have also pointed out that there are flaws in the plan to renegotiate the Brexit deal then put it to a public vote and campaign for Remain.

This appears to have been a key factor in the conclusions reached at the meeting today. The final text produced by the unions shows that they have considered the argument that it would not be logical in the event of an early election for Labour to propose renegotiating Brexit, then campaign for Labour’s deal in parliament, hold a referendum and campaign against that very deal. The unions have taken into account this criticism by separating the TULO Brexit position into two scenarios. Below is the full text.

Scenario 1

The Labour Party should confirm that whatever deal is negotiated by the new Tory Prime Minister or an exit based on no deal should be put to the people in a public confirmatory vote. The options must be:

  1. Accepting the deal or a Tory no deal in the knowledge of its terms
  2. Remaining in the European Union.

In this event, the Labour Party should campaign to remain in the European Union.

Scenario 2

In the event that a general election is called, Labour’s manifesto position should be: 

Negotiating with the European Union to respect the Brexit vote from 2016, reflecting the negotiating priorities that Labour has outlined. 

Any final Labour deal should then be put back to the people. The option on the ballot paper should be:

  1. Accepting the Labour negotiated deal
  2. Remaining in the European Union

The Labour Party’s campaign position on such a ballot should depend on the deal negotiated.

The first scenario makes clear that Labour would back Remain against a Tory deal or no deal. This position will please Remainers and be seen as sensible by most in the party. But according to the second scenario, Labour’s manifesto in a snap election would advocate renegotiating the deal, which would be put to a public vote but Labour would not necessarily support either its own deal or Remain. It would “depend on the deal negotiated”. This compromise is likely to be regarded as more ‘fudge’ by critics: it very explicitly declines to take a view on whether Remain is better than a Labour-negotiated deal, which is the crux of the ongoing controversy after all.

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