Sunday, October 22, 2017

Let’s talk Brexit with Labour

No matter how hard I scratch my head, I can’t work out what our Official Opposition want when it comes to implementing the UK’s departure from the European Union. I don’t like to be in this position. It’s such a major issue, that the Govt should reach out to the Official Opposition to explore where we can agree. After all, it can be argued that it was Labour voters who delivered the Leave decision on June 23rd 2016.
Anyway, I’ve been reading what Labour Brexit Spokesman, Kier Starmer has been saying. He usually talks sense. Seems there are 6 ‘red lines’ that need to be addressed before Labour can support the EU Withdrawal Bill. Let me consider them briefly to see where agreement could be possible - at least in part. 
1) Probably the key demand is that Parliament should be given a vote (a final say) on the negotiated ‘deal’. I’m personally not  opposed to this in principle, but it’s a problem in practice. Those negotiating on behalf of the EU do not want the UK to leave, so they will have a direct interest in a ‘bad deal’. But my view is that we are reaching the stage when Brexit is unstoppable, which makes possibility of some agreement about a vote on the final deal possible.
2) Labour (well, Starmer at least) want a transition period to be included in any EU Withdrawal Act. I’m not sure how this works. Looking forward to hearing how it works in practice. There is a wide acceptance that a transition/implementation period will be needed to manage the change. Since almost everyone agrees on the need for the transition period, there must be a possibility of some agreement on this ‘red line’.
3) Restrictions on Henry VII powers to ensure they are only included where absolutely necessary, and only for as long as necessary. I rather agree with that, and see scope for an agreement on this issue if approached with positive goodwill by both sides.
4) Guarentee that various rights, such as workers rights, human rights and environmental responsibilities are not watered down. Not easy to know what this ‘red line’ means in practice, but I really don’t think this should be an insurmountable problem. Most of us see freedom for the UK Parliament to have control over such rights as being to strengthen them! 
5) Again it’s conflict between the pragmatic and principle when it comes to managing the return of powers reserved to the EU in devolved responsibilities. At issue is protecting the UK Single Market, even more important than the EU Single Market. The challenge for the UK Govt is to offer sufficient reassurance to devolved parliaments that the purpose is to manage the change rather than a ‘Power grab’. I’m very much in support of being as reassuring as possible. Securing support for a Legislative Consent Order is a more significant issue than anything the Official Opposition will say or do. They would look utterly daft to oppose the Bill if an LCO had been passed. 
6) The final ‘red line’ might be a real problem though. Need to think about this more, because I’m not sure of status of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. I support acceptance of rulings of the European Convention on Human Rights, but not the European Court of Justice. Taking back control of our own laws is a fundamental principle of Brexit. This may be a ‘red line’ too far.
I will add that it’s possible that debate will lead to me amending some of this. I look on this blog post as a first draft - definitely a work in progress.

No comments: