Over the last couple of weeks, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has begun to set out Labour’s vision for Britain’s economy. Put simply, as a country, we need to buy, make and sell more in Britain. The pandemic exposed the weaknesses not just of this government, but of our economy as a whole after 11 Tory years.
The next Labour government will have a mission to bring security and resilience back to our economy and public services, and to help our high streets thrive again. But visions don’t happen without a plan, and Labour has a three-point plan to start making this a reality.
First, we want to make more in Britain. Labour will make more in Britain by giving more public contracts to British companies, big and small. We’ll be using stretching social, environmental and labour clauses in contract design, so that we spend and make more in Britain.
We’ll pass a law requiring public bodies to report on how much they are buying from British businesses. We’ll also work with colleges and universities to make sure we’re honing the skills and delivering the apprenticeships we need for the jobs of the future, and which British workers and firms need to succeed.
Post-pandemic and post-Brexit, we know we need more resilient supply chains. Last year we had the extraordinary spectacle of government ministers offering day-by-day commentary on the whereabouts of a single transport plane full of PPE making its way from Turkey to boost our supplies. It’s no way to run anything, let alone the national response to Covid.
Second, our plans for Britain look forward, not back. We need to bring the jobs of the future to Britain. The recent news that my city of Sunderland is getting a new gigafactory producing batteries for electric cars made in our Nissan plant is welcome, but it has to be the start rather than the end of the sort of investment we need.
To sustain car manufacture in the UK, we need to shift to electric. To sustain the ability to export electric vehicles from the UK, we need to move to making the batteries ourselves. If Labour were in power now, as Ed Miliband has set out, we’d be part-financing the creation of three new battery development plants by 2025.
And thirdly, and just as importantly, the next Labour government will stand up for British businesses and workers in trade negotiations. We have left the EU and there must be no more excuses by the government for signing trade deals that don’t work for British businesses, British farmers, or for Britain’s fishing industry.
Labour would work with businesses and trade unions to build on the government’s trade deal with the EU, and stand up for British industries, jobs and standards. Right now, the UK should be sorting out a bespoke veterinary agreement with the European Union, which would tackle many of the issues currently causing problems for British exporters, cutting sanitary and phytosanitary checks and reducing avoidable red tape.
The government hasn’t even tried to fix the obvious problems in the shoddy deal they negotiated with the European Union. Why? Because it would mean it admitting that their deal was inadequate. Our view is that the deal is there to be built on and the government must do so now in the interests of the British people.
None of these policies are impossible or impractical. All of them are rooted in what businesses and trade unions tell Labour day in and day out. The Tories could make these changes now. But they won’t. And we need a better future for our country than the Tories can ever offer. We need to buy, make and sell more in Britain, to build the high-skilled, secure and prosperous economy that only Labour can deliver.