Labour MPs back call for party to set Brexit red lines

Group support pamphlet setting out six principles on EU negotiations, including retaining workers’ and consumer’s rights

Factory workers

In a foreword to the pamphlet Keir Starmer’s Brexit team wrote that no one had voted ‘to make workplaces insecure’.
Photograph: David Davies/PA

A group of Labour MPs has backed a pamphlet calling on the party to agree on a series of Brexit red lines, including only leaving the EU single market if it causes no economic damage, and defending rights over work and the environment.

The publication, produced jointly by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society and the Brexit pressure group Open Britain, outlines six “principles for progressives” that the party could use to pressure the government over the process.

Published to coincide with a Fabian conference in London on Saturday, and before a speech on Tuesday in which Theresa May is expected to outline the government’s Brexit aims, the pamphlet argues that those on the left must come together to shape the negotiations.

The six principles outlined in the paper are:

  1. That if the UK leaves the EU single market or customs union, it should be only on “clear, demonstrable evidence” that it would cause no economic disadvantage. It also calls for the government to agree on a transitional trade deal and rule out a default to World Trade Organisation terms.
  2. To seek unspecified reform of the free movement of people from the EU with greater controls, while also “making the positive case for migration”.
  3. Maintaining cooperation with the EU in areas such as policing and security, and to avoid a more insular outlook, keeping current levels of defence and aid spending.
  4. Defend and keep existing EU regulations on employment and consumer protection, and to lead on environmental and climate change issues.
  5. Use Brexit as the spur to create a “new political economy” based around fairness, and to prevent a “cliff edge” of funding for EU-linked projects after 2020.
  6. To ensure parliament plays a key role in monitoring the terms of Brexit, and has a vote on a final deal.

The principles are backed by eight Labour MPs – Mary Creagh, Mike Gapes, Peter Kyle, Pat McFadden, Alison McGovern, Wes Streeting, Chuka Umunna, and Phil Wilson – but they are not official party policy.

The pamphlet has, however, been welcomed by the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who is due to speak at the Fabian conference.

Starmer and his shadow Brexit team wrote a joint foreword to the pamphlet, arguing that Labour must seek to keep a country that is “internationalist, open and tolerant, seeking close cooperation with our European neighbours in the years ahead”.

They wrote: “No one voted to make their families poorer, to make workplaces insecure, to make our country weaker, to put our national security at risk or to shift blame on to migrants for the failures of the state and the market. But that would be the consequence of conceding political arguments to our opponents.”

Starmer has made similar points in outlining the official Labour response to Brexit, insisting the party must fight “the battle of our time” to shape the post-EU landscape.

In the foreword, he and his team said Labour accepted the referendum result, “but that does not mean that defining the terms upon which we leave the EU should be left in the hands of an increasingly high-handed and inscrutable government”.

Starmer added: “This is not the time for progressives to leave the stage. It is time for progressives to stake out a bold and radical vision of the future that works for everyone.”

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