Dugdale – we cannot sit this fight out

*This article first appeared in the Daily Record on 12/06/18*

By Kezia Dugdale

NEARLY two years after the EU referendum, by the end of this week we will finally have a better idea about what Brexit is going to look like.

Is it going to look like the kind of Brexit that Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg want? A Brexit where we pull up the drawbridge and ban the workers our economy needs, sacrifice thousands of jobs here in the UK, roll back our rights in the workplace, and desperately try to cosy up to Donald Trump.

Or is it going to be a soft Brexit where we secure the least-worst option for our economy? A Brexit where we remain in the Single Market to protect 80,000 jobs in Scotland, welcome migrant workers, create the economic growth to allow us to end Tory austerity, and prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Theresa May knows how much trouble she is in – her supporters are trying to persuade rebels on the Tory benches to back the beleaguered Prime Minister. But we know there are enough of them – people like Kenneth Clarke – who are prepared to put country before party.

So the ball is in Labour’s court.

If we want to, this week we can derail plans for a hard Brexit and deliver the best deal for the country, short of remaining in the EU.

Sadly, as things stand, my own party risks letting Theresa May get away with her ruinous plan.

Today and tomorrow, there will be a series of votes in the Commons on the EU Withdrawal Bill. There will be a mixture of amendments put forward by the UK Government, along with 14 key amendments from the House of Lords, and some opposition amendments if they are selected by Speaker John Bercow.

The amendments from the Lords are potential game-changers. These have come about because peers voted to defeat the government, which means the areas of contention must come back to MPs for their say.

I’m optimistic that many will get accepted – one amendment calls for unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with relatives in the UK, for example.

There will also be a vote on the UK participating in the Customs Union, which abolishes all internal tariffs on goods and establishes a common external tariff on goods. Labour now supports remaining in a Customs Union, which was a welcome policy shift earlier this year.

But by failing to support remaining in the Single Market, our current stance means we care more about car parts or computer microchips travelling freely than we do about workers.

The Single Market allows for the free movement of goods, services, money and – crucially – people.
You can be a member of the Single Market if you are part of the European Economic Area – an option that will be presented to MPs in one of the Lords amendments this week.

Labour must take every opportunity to defeat this Government and its cruel and careless hard Brexit. We cannot sit this fight out.

 

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