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Labour will not allow this government to sell the UK short

3 min read

Labour wants a general election but we will not risk a no deal Brexit to get there, writes Barry Gardiner MP

As we enter conference season with Parliament prorogued, the new prime minister – installed on promises made to the select few Tory party members who had the power to vote for him – is dead set on getting Brexit done by 31 October. To hell with all and any who get in his way, whether that be his own backbenchers, frontbenchers, Parliament and even his own flesh and blood.

Proroguing Parliament is a cynical ploy and part of Boris Johnson’s attempts to evade public scrutiny and silence the sovereign body of elected representatives of the British people. He is stymying any opportunity for Parliament to attempt to bring forward coherent solutions to the current impasse and, simultaneously, killing off essential Brexit bills including the Agriculture Bill and the Trade Bill, ostensibly establishing the architecture for our post-Brexit future.

These bills contained a number of measures, brought forward with cross-party support, which would ensure protections for our domestic farmers, protect against import surges of goods from overseas produced to lower standards, and that would ensure scrutiny of future trade agreements.

The Labour party has worked closely with the leaders of other opposition parties to put aside party differences and to work collectively at a time of national crisis. We are clear that a no deal Brexit poses a very serious threat to our economy, to jobs and to our global standing. We will not support such an outcome and we will continue to use every possible lever to ensure that the interests of the country are put ahead of the ideological demands of Tory party members competing with Nigel Farage. We want a general election but we will not risk a no deal Brexit to get there.

Indeed, it is extremely troubling to hear rumours that government resources are being allocated to ramp up efforts to secure trade agreements with non-EU partners at a time our EU partners are suggesting talks have come to a standstill.

Such a Trump Brexit deal would likely result in increased competition within our public services, including our NHS. It would mean changes to pharmaceutical pricing and availability. It would mean restrictions on government data regulations, allowing greater access to patient medical records for American tech and healthcare companies. It would mean lowering food safety and animal welfare standards to allow imported foodstuffs such as chlorine-washed chicken.

Moreover, it could see us on the wrong side of history by undermining our efforts to tackle global climate change. The current White House administration is proud to deny manmade climate change and is keen to rip up international treaties, including the Paris Climate Accord, in order to ensure advantages for US businesses and to appease their backers in the oil and gas industries.

Similarly, our prime minister’s appetite to lock in deregulatory trade agreements with his right wing counterparts has seen him dispatch the new trade minister to Brazil to quaff champagne with their climate-sceptic environment minister while the Amazon burns due to widespread deforestation; deforestation that can be directly attributed to land-clearing for soybean and cattle farming in order to service new trade markets.

This is a critical juncture in global history as well as our own. The actions taken by our government now have profound consequences for all of us, and this is why it is absolutely critical that they be held to account, that decisions be scrutinised and that all the information is made available.

Mistakes made now may be irreversible, so we need a Labour government that is capable of putting the interests of the country, and the many, first.

Barry Gardiner is Labour MP for Brent North and shadow international trade secretary

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