EXCL Labour frontbencher: businesses will be worse off after Brexit
Businesses will be "worse off outside the European Union", a Labour frontbencher has said - despite the party backing Brexit.
Labour has vowed to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, tearing into the Government's handling of the negotiations and promising an alternative 'Jobs First Brexit' vision.
But Bill Esterson, who has served as Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Small Business Minister since 2015, acknowledged that Brexit in any form would hit businesses.
He made the comments in an interview with PoliticsHome’s sister title The House.
Asked whether there were any upsides for small businesses in leaving the EU, Mr Esterson said: “Look, I voted to Remain in the European Union. I don’t want us to leave the European Union.
“But, you know, we’ve accepted the result. I don’t think it particularly gets us anywhere to be visiting questions of whether we’re going to be better off. We’re clearly going to be worse off outside the European Union, and businesses are.”
The frontbencher added: "I’m not hearing business saying they are going to be better off outside the European Union.
“I’ve got some saying, 'I don’t think we’re going to be affected by it' - and they mean directly.
“But of course, if the economy does fall by 11%... or even a fraction of that, it will affect all businesses because the economy is an organic operation that connects everybody and every business."
The frank admission from the shadow minister comes as Labour heads into its annual conference under increasing pressure from activists to shift its stance on leaving the EU.
More than 150 Brexit-related motions have been submitted to its conference by local Labour parties, with a particular focus on calls for the party to consider backing a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the bloc.
Elsewhere in his House magazine interview, Mr Esterson - who also holds the international trade portfolio for his party - blasted the Conservatives’ handling of Brexit, and claimed that Labour’s alternative plan would soften the impact on smaller firms and stop the economy “falling off a cliff”.
He said: “If you look at the alternatives that we’re offering - you know, a new, comprehensive customs union, maintaining the regulatory environment that we have now, ensuring we have common standards - those are all guaranteed to avoid disruption post-Brexit.
"I think that’s where is the business community is. People have accepted the result of the referendum in the business community by and large, as has the Labour Party, but it doesn’t mean... that we shouldn’t be arguing for arrangements that look after the economy, business and jobs. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The Shadow Small Business Minister also revealed that Labour is considering setting up a new “one stop shop” for small firms to seek advice and funding in a bid to claim the Conservatives’ traditional mantle as the party of business.