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Analysis

Corbyn’s 5 demands are step in road to People’s Vote

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 07.02.2019

Jeremy Corbyn has set out five demands for supporting Theresa May’s deal. Something like this needed to happen at some point and it should be welcomed that Labour is finally put a specific set of Brexit policies on paper.

What’s needed now is for this – and any other alternative Brexit proposals – to be given the same level of scrutiny that led Parliament to reject the government’s deal last month. Corbyn’s proposal will almost certainly fail this test. The government is unlikely to back it, both Brexiters and patriotic pro-Europeans will balk at the level of rule-taking without a say, and there are a number of “cake and eat it” elements the EU will disagree with.

Once Corbyn’s gambit is dispensed with, Labour can move onto the next stage of the Brexit policy agreed last year at party conference. That says that, if Labour couldn’t get a general election, it should explore other options including a new public vote. A rejection of the five demands would mean Labour can fulfil the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its voters and members by campaigning to give the public the final say.

So what are Corbyn’s demands? They would see the UK: inside a customs union with a say in future trade deals, aligned with the single market “underpinned by shared institutions”, signing up to “dynamic alignment” on rights and protections, committed to participating in EU agencies, and continuing to cooperate on security policy.

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It also opens up a whole series of questions. Could it really be negotiated before the UK has left the EU to avoid the need for a backstop? Corbyn wants to see these goals introduced as part of a revision to the political declaration, not the withdrawal agreement, so probably intends to keep the backstop.

What would be the UK’s actual relationship to the single market? Again, by putting all this in the political declaration – a document with about the same heft as a strongly worded press release – it remains deeply unclear what the final relationship would be.

Would the EU really allow the UK any meaningful say over its trade policy? That seems like something the EU is unlikely to ever put on the table.

These five demands won’t settle anything, but that’s probably a good thing for Labour in the long run. The leadership can say they tried to make Brexit work, and finally move on. That would be in keeping with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Labour’s members and potential voters. New research by the TSSA trade union showed Labour would get a lower share of the vote in every seat if it were seen to have a pro-Brexit policy rather than an anti-Brexit position.

Corbyn’s five demands need a public hearing. But when they fail, it’s time to quickly move on to what the majority of Labour members want – their party to back a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “Corbyn’s 5 demands are step in road to People’s Vote”

  • Labour is a divided party on Brexit and when anti-Semitism is added to the mix, we could soon be looking at a centre progressive party which would be free to pursue a peoples vote and detoxify the Northern Ireland backstop