Following marches, media rounds and an endless number of fringe events dedicated to the topic... What is Labour’s policy on Brexit?
Short answer: it depends who you ask
Long answer: bear with me...
Assuming Theresa May comes back from Brussels with a Deal - Labour will vote against it if it doesn’t meet their 6 tests. This is pretty much a certainty.
If there are enough MPs from other parties who also reject the deal, and it doesn’t make it through parliament (the numbers are very tight), Labour would push for a general election.
They are very clear that this is their preference and that they are ready to run a campaign.
In the event that a general election is not achievable then Labour would throw its weight behind a ‘people’s vote’.
So far so clear.
The difficulty comes in two main forms, if Labour win power - what are their negotiating aims and what is any potential for an second referendum.
“Let the adults take over”
In reaffirming her preference for a general election Emily Thornbury, Shadow Foreign Secretary, said it was time for Labour to take over negotiations and deliver Brexit.
However, it is not clear what any Labour manifesto presented before ‘Brexit day’ would include. It would surely depend on the context but could include promises to:
- Leave the EU - delivering Brexit along the lines consistent with its 6 tests. It appears they would be looking for a customs union and single market outcome.
- Hold a referendum on what deal they come up with - with a possible right to remain.
- Remain in the EU. Unlikely at the moment but things are changing.
A possible people’s vote - to include remain or not?
Assuming a general election is not called, what does Labour propose is on the ballot paper in a second vote?
Announcing Labour’s support for a people’s vote, Kier Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary, said that “all options” must be available and that includes “remaining in the European Union”. A prolonged standing ovation suggests that these are the wishes of the majority of Labour members - at least those here in Liverpool.
(NB. They will vote on whether this should be policy this afternoon - it is expected to sail through.)
Labour voters are heavily pro-remain and many have felt let down by the Party’s ambiguity on the subject. In Kier they will see a possible route out of Brexit.
The challenge for Labour is that major parts of their traditional voting heartlands voted to leave.
Len McCluskey, John McDonnell and numerous other leading Labour Party figures have suggested that ‘remain’ would not be on the ballot. What that leaves is less clear as they have also ruled out No Deal as a viable option.
As with most Labour policy we await clarification from Jeremy Corbyn.
What does it all mean for business?
While Labour feel ready for government and are committed to taking over negotiations via a general election - they are not in charge.
The clock is also ticking. Voting, whether in a general election or a referendum, takes time and UK’s is running out.