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Analysis

6 reasons Labour MPs must not back PM’s shabby deal

by Hugo Dixon | 07.03.2019

Few Labour MPs seem tempted by Theresa May’s pathetic bribes of extra money or workers’ rights. But history will be unkind if any helps get her miserable deal over line. Here are six reasons they should vote against it next week.

More money for towns if we stay

The government is dangling £1.6 billion spread over seven years for “left behind towns”. While it is true that parts of our country have been starved of resources for decades and desperately need investment, £200 million or so a year to support a deal that the government’s own analysis suggests could eventually cost the country £100 billion a year is not the way to do this.

What we need is large and sustained public investment in these communities on the basis of objective criteria rather than as part of a shabby backroom deal. CommonGround has advocated a Jumpstart Fund, worth many billions of pounds a year. If we stay in the EU, this will be much easier to afford, as a group of cross-party politicians and members of civil society wrote in an open letter this week.

Better rights if we stay

The prime minister is also promising to enshrine existing EU employment rights into UK law after Brexit, and for Parliament to have a vote on adopting new EU rules in the future. But her pledge won’t stop UK workers’ rights falling behind those of other countries or protect existing rights from being torn up by a future right-wing government.

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Labour supporters want a People’s Vote

Some Labour MPs from Leave areas think their constituents will be angry if they don’t back the PM’s deal. But there’s a difference between constituents in general and Labour party voters. Labour voters in the party’s North and Midlands heartlands are in favour of Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to back a new referendum by three-to-one. If they are given a choice between May’s deal and staying in the EU, they would prefer to stay in by a margin of four-to-one.

ERG coup spells even harder Brexit

Any Labour MP who thinks they can live with the prime minister’s deal should think again. The prime minister is unlikely to last the year. The hardline European Research Group is preparing a coup to replace her with somebody more to its liking. And because May’s deal is a blind Brexit that spells out little about our future relationship, a new prime minister could go very hard indeed.

No risk from saying “no” next week

Some Labour MPs are anxious that we could crash out of the EU with no deal at all. But this isn’t a risk from voting against the deal next week. If Parliament rejects it, MPs will on Thursday have a chance to instruct the prime minister to ask the EU for extra time. So the real choice next week isn’t May’s deal or no deal; it’s May’s deal or delay.

Verdict of history

If Labour MPs help get this deal over the line, they will be viewed as the Ramsay MacDonalds of their era. MacDonald split the Labour Party in the 1930s by doing a pact with the Tories. He was eventually expelled from the party he helped found.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe