Brexit update: 8 October 2019
I joined my colleague Keir Starmer on Labour’s front bench yesterday as we pressed the Government to publish the text of the proposals that Boris Johnson put to the EU last week. Time and again Brexit Minister James Duddridge called on MPs to support the proposed ‘deal’ – but time and again he refused to let us see it! The proposals run to 44 pages and we’ve simply been given a 7-page summary, which is apparently at variance with the legal text.
Yesterday’s farce in the Commons Chamber confirmed that Johnson isn’t serious about these proposals. Coming three months after he took office, but just two weeks before the crucial meeting of the European Council, his plan is designed to fail. Accompanied by ultimatums to the EU to accept his final offer, the proposals rely on the sort of customs arrangements that were unsuccessfully explored between Theresa May and the EU. The absence of workable alternatives is why Theresa May proposed the ‘backstop’ to respect the Good Friday Agreement.
The focus on the backstop also misses a bigger point. It was not the main reason that Theresa May’s deal was rejected by Parliament. It may have been the obsession of the hard Brexiteers in the Tory ‘European Research Group’, and of the DUP, but most of us across opposition parties voted against the deal because it damaged the UK economy and opened the door to ending the rights and protections for workers, consumers and the environment. These proposals go further by explicitly rejecting alignment with these rights and protections.
As he dismisses Supreme Court judgements and accuses MPs of surrender, it is increasingly clear that a damaging ‘no deal’ departure is not the unfortunate result of failing to secure a deal, but the desired objective for Boris Johnson and the Brexit extremists around him. They want the deepest possible rupture with the EU, breaking with the European social model and aligning the UK with the low-regulation American economic model.
Johnson knows the damage that will be caused by a ‘no deal’ Brexit – the Government’s own analyses have made it clear – so now his focus is on trying to shift responsibility. His rhetoric (and the briefings from inside No.10) is preparing the ground to blame both Parliament and the EU for the inevitable failure of his proposals and the consequent damage to jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
Parliament remains focussed on ensuring that the law we passed to avert a damaging ‘no deal’ Brexit is respected by the Government and that Johnson seeks an extension to Article 50 if, by 19th October, if he is unable to secure a deal approved by Parliament. That will avoid the immediate crisis, it doesn’t end the Brexit impasse.
The next step must be a further public vote between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU, as I set out from our front bench in March. I’ll be making the case in Parliament and joining the national march on 19th October to give the people of the UK the final say on our country’s future.