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Labour must remain united in the fight against a Tory Brexit

4 min read

The Tories cannot deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. It’s time for Labour to fight for our country’s future, writes Jenny Chapman

This weekend, Labour party members and supporters will travel to Liverpool for this year’s annual conference.

It’s an important moment for the party to speak to the country about our plans to transform the economy, improve our schools and hospitals and reverse the damage of more than eight years of Tory austerity. We will be setting out our strategy to rebuild Britain for the many, not the few.

But, it will also be an opportunity to discuss the threat of the Tories’ plan for Brexit.

Like millions of people across the country, I have watched with growing frustration and anger at the government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. These are the toughest negotiations in our country’s recent history. They required a prime minister and a government that was working in the national interest.

Instead, we have witnessed an approach driven by party division, reckless red lines, a dangerous ideology and meaningless soundbites.

The Chequers summit was meant to be the moment when Theresa May faced down the extreme voices within her party and finally published a credible plan for Brexit. Instead, it became a moment when the irreconcilable divides within the Conservative party over Europe were exposed.

Two senior cabinet resignations within a matter of hours was a clear vote of no confidence in the prime minister’s Brexit strategy. It also proved once and for all that the Tories cannot deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs.

Ministers have wasted the last two years fighting among themselves, rather than negotiating for Britain. They have also spent the summer talking up the risk of a no-deal Brexit, despite the devastating impact it would have on the economy, people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Compare the Tories’ approach to Brexit to the alternative being offered by Labour. An approach that respects the result of the referendum, puts jobs and the economy first and is rooted in our country’s values.

Labour was right when we said that EU citizens should have their rights guaranteed immediately after the referendum; 3 million European citizens living in this country should be treated as human beings – not bargaining chips in a negotiation.

We were right to say the government should have had a plan before triggering Article 50. We were right to argue for parliament to have a proper role in the Brexit process. We were right to make the case for a transitional period, on the same basic terms as now, in the customs union and single market.

We were right to say that we should continue working with Europe on areas of shared interest, like health, security and scientific research. We were right to argue for a customs union with the EU. We were right to say that the commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland should be enshrined in law. And we were right to argue for a strong single market deal, based on common standards, protections and regulations: the right balance of rights and obligation.

In the coming months, Theresa May will try to conclude her negotiations with the EU. The deal she reaches will then be presented to parliament.

Labour has been clear from the outset that we will judge the final Brexit deal against the six tests Keir Starmer laid out at the start of the negotiations. Those tests set a high bar, but they are based on the promises made by Theresa May and members of her cabinet. They are also tests that Theresa May told the House of Commons she was “determined to meet”.

The coming months will be pivotal for the entire Brexit process. It is a time for Labour to remain united in the fight against a Tory Brexit. It is the time for us to step up to the challenge and fight for our country’s future. That is Labour’s task, and we won’t let the country down. 

Jenny Chapman is Labour MP for Darlington and shadow minister for exiting the European Union

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