Approved unanimously by Labour Business Executive Committee
12th September 2018
On 2 September 2018 EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that 185,000 jobs in the British car industry are at risk from the Tory government's continued refusal to accept a customs union and single market with the EU after Brexit.
Conference notes with concern this latest evidence of real damage to the UK economy being caused by the Tory government's negotiating stance - with businesses suspending investment decisions and/or moving abroad, shedding staff or going under. Public services in the UK are also affected, with the NHS facing staff shortages, and critical EU agencies such as the European Medicines Agency having announced their impending departure to the Continent.
Conference is clear that the Tory Brexit does not offer an acceptable basis for leaving the EU. There is no deal for services accounting for 80% of our GDP. It fails to set out a workable solution for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, which is a threat to businesses as well as to security, and it fails to remove the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit.
- Conference therefore calls on Labour to:
- Oppose any Brexit deal that does not satisfy Labour’s 6 tests, including any “no-deal” scenario
- Seek an extension of the Article 50 deadline to avoid a Tory “take it or leave it” scenario and allow all options to be properly considered
- Campaign actively for a public vote on whether to accept the Tory deal or remain in the EU.
Labour Business Brexit Statement
- The overwhelming majority of Labour Business members (79%) voted in a recent survey to remain in the EU, and that remains the first preference for most.
- The Conservative government's current position, reaffirmed in its recent White Paper after a 2-year delay, is causing real damage to the UK economy. Businesses are suspending investment decisions and/or moving to other EU member states, shedding staff or going under.
- We are clear that the Government’s White Paper does not offer an acceptable basis for leaving the EU (even in the unlikely event that it proved acceptable to the EU 27) because:
It fails to meet the needs of the UK’s services sector, which represents 80% of our GDP – it’s a “no deal” Brexit for services;
It fails to set out a workable solution for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, which is a threat to businesses as well as to security;
Above all, it fails to remove the possibility of an overall “no deal” Brexit, which we totally oppose.
- A particular problem with the Conservatives’ current proposals is that its suggested customs arrangements are unworkable. This is causing further uncertainty for business and increasing the prospect of a “no-deal” Brexit, which would be disastrous and which Labour must strive to prevent.
- We support the call for a People's Vote as a means of resolving Parliamentary deadlock. In addition, we are calling for an extension of the Article 50 process now to allow options to be properly considered.
- We support Labour keeping staying in the EU as an option in the event of any government deal that compromises the UK’s economy and fails Labour's six tests.
- Labour Business recognises that the scale of EU/EEA migration in parts of the UK causes concern to many British people. Yet, our members across all regions of the country also tell us that EU/EEA migrants play a vital role in filling skill shortages – especially in the NHS and other public services, as well as agriculture - and have a positive effect on economic growth. We also note that the UK government could within current EU/EEA rules regulate free movement of people to ensure that EU/EEA migrants do not become a burden on the UK’s welfare and public services. We urge Labour to include an offer to help develop a new approach to free movement of people as part of its fresh thinking for retaining access to the Single Market and remaining in a customs union with the EU.
- In the event of a People's Vote deciding to reaffirm the 2016 decision to Leave the EU, Labour Business urges the Labour leadership to recognise that, besides membership of a customs union, the UK must retain access to the Single Market (via EEA/EFTA membership or a bespoke arrangement) to ensure the “next best” conditions for businesses, jobs and the economy.
- We would support Labour’s alternative of a customs union with the EU post-Brexit. It is a workable solution that would also protect the UK’s existing trade links with the world. But we consider the so-called freedom to negotiate new trade deals with non-EU countries is an illusory freedom through which stronger economies (such as the USA) will seek to drive down working, trading and environmental standards.