Labour must fight the right-wing agenda for Brexit

by Samuel Dale

The UK is on the brink of a right-wing revolution much bigger than anything Margaret Thatcher managed to achieve. And Labour is simply a bystander.

Labour has yet to find its feet on the Brexit debate and it is being regularly and comprehensively outmaneuvered by the Tory right-wing and Ukip.

There is no Donald Trump protectionist right in the UK, only the libertarian tax and regulation slashers. And they are in the driving seat.

It is a relief that Theresa May has stated the obvious truth about Brexit that we are leaving the single market and customs union.

Labour has to concentrate on two big, incredibly concerning policy areas and shift the debate.

Firstly, it was obvious on 24 June 2016 that we were leaving the single market as it is no way to square the circle of leaving the EU, cutting immigration and staying in the single market. May has accepted reality.

In addition, if we are not part of the EU infrastructure than remaining in the single market would be destructive. Rules would be made and we would have to obey them without any say.

It’s gone. Instead of waffling on about single market access, Labour should focus on being a counterpoint to the intense lobbying operation that is building up in London and Brussels.

Financial services lobbyists see this as a once in a generation chance to slash red tape for banks after years of ratcheting up from the EU.

For example, the bankers’ bonus cap was imposed by the EU and opposed by the UK. Will Theresa May pledge to keeping the bonus cap? Which banking regulations will she be rolling back? How will hedge funds be regulated in Brexit Britain? Which bank chief executives will David Davis be meeting? What are they lobbying for?

These are real concerns that could flow from a trade deal and its aftermath. It would be good to get this on the agenda now for the battle ahead.

Secondly, May wants the UK to make her own trade deals so it will require a separate customs agreement with the EU.

This is fraught and more dangerous that leaving the single market because it could create new tariffs on British business. We would certainly have to pay the common external tariff for trading into the EU and may impose our own tariffs when importing too.

This would be a costly nightmare that would damage the EU and the UK. This is the now crux of the Article 50 negotiations.

More worrying though is right-wing suggestions that the UK should unilaterally end its own external tariff post-Brexit in a radical free trade drive,

This would undoubtedly lead to massive job losses across Labour heartlands. Any job that can be done cheaper abroad would be able to leave without any tariff or penalty for doing so.

It would be the equivalent of a massive strengthening of Sterling so imports become cheaper but UK companies compete with the world.

This is radical. What about Port Talbot? What about steel jobs across Britain? What about car plants and other manufacturers? If left to compete with the world and no governmental support, how many jobs will go? Is this what May is planning?

You can support free trade without dropping the nuclear option. This would be a painful shock to the British economic system more radical than anything Brexit can muster.

Thirdly, Labour must fight the possibility of the UK becoming a tax haven like Singapore to the EU’s China. An offshore fund centre with 10% corporate taxes and a welcoming home to the world’s footloose businesses.

Let’s ask questions. Which taxes would you cut? Which services would be cut? Is the NHS still safe after a Brexit tax bonanza? Would you let the deficit rise?

Let’s show the threat is hollow. May may not have the votes to push such as radical agenda in the face of EU intransigence. Labour may change its leader and make a comeback, Tories may revolt and block it. The markets may demand the deficit (remember that?) is priortised over tax cuts.

There are major concerns over the government’s Brexit response and many are slipping under the radar without Labour shining a light on them.

We must keep the pressure up to stop Brexit being turned into a vehicle for the wet dreams of libertarians who would destroy the NHS and smash the welfare state.

The single market is gone. The customs union is gone. Let’s wrestle back control of this debate before the right-wing force us down an even more radical path.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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12 Responses to “Labour must fight the right-wing agenda for Brexit”

  1. Martin says:

    “The single market is gone. The customs union is gone.” No more so than the Labour Party itself. You could at least consider putting up a fight.

  2. Malc says:

    There is something going on in the UK: a rejection of the Thatcher/Blair political consensus being the most important development. That’s why I think Tory-lite approaches have been rejected so resoundingly by Labour’s membership. Jeremy represents the only real way forward.

  3. john P Reid says:

    for a start you neglect the Fact that ukip hold my socially conservative views many in the Labour movement have had for years secondly many ne nation Tories who have socially liberal views similar to those on the right of the Labour party, Boris Johnson Michael Gove and Priti Patel

    as for the Thatcher reference to Brexit as same what party fought the 1983 election to leave Europe and which one stood on platform to remain, ,and which one Thatcher was in

    you’re right about the Single market though

  4. uglyfatbloke says:

    We’d never what to emulate Singapore, nor do we admire (envy) the better incomes and standard of living that those poor Singaporeans have to endure…not to mention their fabulous health service etc.

  5. Anon E Mouse says:

    “Let’s wrestle back control of this debate before the right-wing force us down an even more radical path”

    Too late. Move on. Join the Lib-Dems.

    If you really believe that being a self governing country is a radical path then you really need to get out more. The world has moved on and as usual the left has missed the boat.

  6. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I didnt get past the first sentence before I took issue with this article. If Sammuel Dale can explain how in a democracy “The UK is on the brink of a right-wing revolution…………..” I will read the his piece.

  7. paul barker says:

    Their is no “Right Wing Agenda” for Brexit. Brexit is Right Wing. Nationalism is Right Wing.
    Labour are now just working for The Tories however “Revolutionary” their rhetoric.
    Three-quarters of Labour members want to stay in The Single Market but their Leader wants out & thatis all that matters.

  8. Anon says:

    In this age of ‘post-truth’ it is interesting to note, that wishing to have a fully functioning national democracy is somehow “right-wing”.

    With democracy back in our hands, it is up to the people of this country to hold the Conservatives to account – and, yes, Labour have their part to play; but please lay off this ‘right/left-wing’ stuff. It’s annoying.

  9. Antidualist says:

    The problem with this analysis is that once labour has given up on the single market and customs union then what exactly is their alternative. Whatever you think of the tories and their foolish and destructive tax haven plan they are at least willing to set out an alternative route for the uk. The left as far as we can see don’t have one. Labour have no suggestion as to how the uk could grow once we have abandoned free trade with the rest of Europe. The piece also ignores considerable evidence that eve most leave voters let alone the 48% who voted remain would accept single market membership if the alternative means losing out financially, as the consequences of brexit for people’s living standards continue to trickle through over the next year the idea that all that matters is cutting immigration will become increasingly challenged but if labour has set it’s up as backing mays plan and opposing the single market then we will be unable to capitalise on that mood change and in the mean time we will have squandered what support we could get from remain backers.

    Unless there is a viable plan from labour then agreeing with mays targets in the negotiation is passive acquesiances of her tax haven plan as well.

  10. ad says:

    More worrying though is right-wing suggestions that the UK should unilaterally end its own external tariff post-Brexit in a radical free trade drive,

    Those evil, nationalistic right-wingers, refusing to discriminate against foreigners…

  11. john P reid says:

    paul Libdem barker .nationalism is right wing? has anyone told the Scottish nationalist party?

    as for brexit if we have control of our country its’only right wing if a right wing government rule the country, bit like when the Libdems went into coalition

  12. Tafia says:

    Paul Parker. Nationalism is right wing is it? The most left wing party in Parliament is Plaid Cymru – a nationalist party.

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