Labour manifesto offers chance to restore sanity on Europe

by Andrew Gowers | 21.11.2019

Labour describes its manifesto as a document promising transformational change, and indeed the proposals for nationalisation, windfall taxes and soaking the rich do appear to answer to that description. But on the most important question facing the country in this election, Labour offers welcome continuity where the Conservatives are intent on upending the UK economy and disrupting our most important trading relationships.

The chapter “A Final Say on Europe” is one of the clearest and most cogent parts of the manifesto. Although Jeremy Corbyn has been repeatedly lampooned for refusing to say where he stands on whether the UK should ultimately leave or remain, he is in fact offering a completely realistic prospectus that contrasts markedly with the bluster and nonsense being spouted by Boris Johnson and his Hard Brexit squad. 

Instead of an implausible – and impossible – promise to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement within less than 11 months, Labour is raising the prospect of a consensual Brexit that does not wreck the economy – and leaves open the possibility that UK citizens, given the opportunity to have second thoughts, will vote to remain in the EU in a final, “legally binding” referendum. This is nothing but plain and moderate good sense, as is Labour’s consistent opposition to the Tories’ still-looming threat to crash out with no deal next year if they cannot get the “divergent” trade and regulatory terms they are demanding from Europe. 

It is true as the manifesto says that the Conservatives have failed over three years to “get Brexit sorted”, and that they are no nearer to a solution now. Natural justice demands that they be punished for this at the ballot box by being denied a majority. 

It is also true that a vote for Labour is the route to doing so in most constituencies. Given that pollsters, with one voice, proclaim that it is next to impossible that Labour will itself win a majority on December 12, the party’s soundness on Europe should trump fears that the party will get to implement the wackier partes of its policy platform. Instead it is relatively easy to see how a consensus between the other parties could be forged on the basis of Labour’s “Final Say” approach.

There is more. The detail on Labour’s plans to seek maximum alignment with Europe provides comfort on the feasibility of a proposed renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement and subsequent trade talks under a Corbyn-led government, as does the thoughtful approach to security commitments, citizens’ rights and continued UK participation in EU agencies and funding programmes after Brexit. All of these contrast with Johnson’s woeful lack of clarity on many of these issues, silence on some and lies on others. 

So at this election, the choice is indeed between an outcome that would set the UK’s economy and international influence back by decades, and one with a chance of restoring sanity after three years of madness. But contrary to the conventional wisdom coursing through the right-wing press, the first of these outcomes would be brought about by a Tory majority; the second would be quite likely in a hung parliament.

InFacts advises tactical voting in the coming election. Pro-Europeans should back the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Tories, so long as that candidate supports a new referendum. 

Edited by Hugo Dixon

Categories: Brexit, UK Politics

3 Responses to “Labour manifesto offers chance to restore sanity on Europe”

  • Had to pop my eyes back in their sockets and find my jaw back under the table. Well, well, next to LibDem belatedly Labour is the one that starts to make sense. Now hope that the two can create a majority to whack the Tories the uppercut they so richly deserve.

  • Stunning naivety here.

    1. How do you know the EU will grant an extension?
    2. Labour can only renegotiate the WA. The future relationship is still a separate issue and needs time to work out so it is wrong to say labour will get things sorted more quickly.

    3. ‘Close alignment’ means nothing. The fact is labour proposes to leave the single market and end freedom of movement for all UK citizens except of course NI ones who are entitled to an Irish passport. One result of this will be that UK citizens wanting to retire to Spain will now be subject to Spanish rules for non-EU citizens. That means being required to have a 25k pension, 3 times the current requirement. Another will be that it will be much harder for UK citizens to get jobs in the EU.
    4. On the other hand a choice between labour’s deal and remain is no choice at all for most leave voters.

  • Charles,
    The Conservatives own research reckon only about 20% of the population favour the No Deal option, which is why they are frightened of the idea of a 2nd Referendum. If the electorate wake up to this as the reality of voting for them they will be in real trouble.
    I would say that the Labour Party has a far better chance of negotiating a better Leave Option which would be better aligned to what people thought they might get in 2016 because for a start they would approach discussions without the all the foreigner bashing we have had over of the last 3 years. I reckon they have already sounded the EU out about their proposals in advance anyway.