Labour have officially killed another one of their Brexit promises today, they will be formally whipping their MPs to vote for Nick Boles’ ‘Common Market 2.0’ plan tonight. Common Market 2.0 is not a new plan, it’s just a new label stuck on the tired old can of full membership of the Single Market and Customs Union. Which Boles used to say was “the worst of all worlds, neither in nor out, with no power to influence what the EU does and no freedom to do something different”…
Despite the clever spin put on it, Common Market 2.0 does not get the UK out of all the commitments of the EEA/Single Market, including free movement of people, ECJ oversight and large financial contributions. Something which Nick Boles also clarified in the past – while lecturing others about honesty…
As Labour’s 2017 manifesto said in black and white: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union”. Are there any manifesto commitments on Brexit that Labour haven’t broken yet?
Theresa May has often insisted that Brexiteers should simply swallow the backstop, unpalatable as it is, because there is little chance of it ever being used. This argument has taken a hammer-blow overnight with multiple reports from Brussels that Sabine Weyand, Barnier’s deputy who leads the EU’s negotiations at a technical level, has been telling EU ambassadors that the EU plans to use the backstop as the basis for the future relationship with the UK locked into the customs union and “level playing field” arrangements on social and environmental policy. Confirming all of Brexiteers’ warnings about the UK becoming a permanent vassal state…
According to The Times, Weyand told EU ambassadors:
“We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship… They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage.”
Weyand also said that the UK would be forced to concede on fisheries, one of the last remaining red lines May is attempting to cling to, saying that the UK “would have to swallow a link between access to products and fisheries in future agreements”. The gaping hole at the heart of the Government’s Brexit strategy is that it has not made any preparations to leave the customs union or single market in any meaningful sense. The EU knows this and is exploiting it mercilessly.
Ironically, the one thing it does do is bring the Government’s position almost entirely into line with Labour’s, the only difference being that the Government is still claiming that the customs union and level playing field arrangements will be temporary, while Labour – and evidently the EU – want them to be permanent. May has zero chance of getting the deal through Parliament on Tory and DUP votes alone, with the DUP further hardening their opposition to the deal overnight, however the Labour frontbench is still continuing to dangle the possibility of a shock decision to back the deal. This might be May’s only hoping of getting the deal through Parliament but it would surely signal the death knell of her leadership…
The extremely well-connected Brexit wonk Charles Grant writes in the FT today that the government is considering asking to stay in the single market for goods. Guido also understands this is under active consideration in Number 10. Grant writes that this means de facto accepting ECJ rulings and EU rules and regulations, and potentially a compromise on free movement:
“The challenge, however, is that the EU would never agree to Britain being in the single market for goods unless it adopted all relevant rules, submitted to a punishment mechanism for any deviation, and accepted some oversight by the European Court of Justice… If the UK does request membership of the single market in goods, the EU’s initial reaction will be no. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, says the single market is “ binary” — you are either in all or none of it — and must involve free movement of labour.”
If we agree to become a rule-taker on goods and accept ECJ rulings, we are clearly not taking back control of laws. If we have full alignment with Brussels regulations on goods, that severely hampers our ability to strike trade deals with other countries – that is not taking back control of trade policy. If there is a compromise on free movement, that is not taking back control of borders. And it is unfathomable the EU would agree to all this without the UK making significant ongoing payments of vast sums to Brussels. That is not taking back control of money. Staying in the single market for goods crosses May’s own red lines, and goes miles beyond the red lines of Brexiters.
Number 10 may have wagered that they can buy off Brexiters like Boris and Gove by agreeing to spend the Brexit dividend on the NHS (even though this is disingenuous and the NHS money is mostly tax rises). But surely there is no way Boris, Gove, Fox and Davis – or any Brexiter for that matter – could stay in the government if their red lines were rubbed out like this. This would be the softest of Brexits – Cabinet Leavers must stand up to Number 10 on this…
It really is Single Market Groundhog Day today. Guido can’t quite believe we are still having this argument two years on from the referendum, but it falls upon us once again to point out that, during the referendum, Nick Clegg was clear that Brexit meant leaving the single market. As was David Miliband. Their attempt today to pretend they never said this is why people hate politicians.
David Miliband is giving a speech this morning about how we should stay in the single market. On 9 May 2016, at the height of the referendum campaign, the same David Miliband told voters that voting to leave the EU would mean leaving the single market. This is from a Stronger In press release. He could not have been clearer:
“The admission by the Leave campaign that quitting the EU means quitting the single market has let the cat out of the bag: a vote to Leave would be an unprecedented act of economic self-harm.”
This really is the height of dishonesty from Miliband.
Shadow Brexit Secretary @Keir_Starmer: We’ve been absolutely clear what the combination needs to be… we need to make sure it’s the combination customs union and single market #Marr pic.twitter.com/PfMRGYHrcS
— BrexitCentral (@BrexitCentral) May 13, 2018
Back in March, Guido revealed the existence of a draft press release that showed Keir Starmer was working with Brussels to change Labour’s policy to staying in a customs union. It would now appear that he is doing the same on the single market. On Marr yesterday, Starmer called for us to have the exact same benefits of single market membership. He said: “We’ve been absolutely clear what the combination needs to be… we need to make sure it’s the combination, customs union and single market”. Today, he is in Brussels to talk to the EU about “retaining benefits of single market“.
Just arrived in Brussels for full day of Brexit discussions tomorrow with senior politicians across EU27. Much to discuss including importance of retaining benefits of single market & customs union.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) May 13, 2018
It would appear that, as he did with a customs union, Starmer is attempting to shift Labour’s policy towards single market membership.
It is inconceivable that this is not being coordinated with other Remainers. In the pro-Remain Mail on Sunday yesterday, David Miliband, Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg called for ‘hard Brexit’ to be prevented. (Remainers, ever trying to move the dial back, are now defining ‘hard Brexit’ as leaving the single market.) On the Today programme this morning, Miliband explicitly called for us to retain single market membership. Norway has this morning u-turned on its reticence to the UK joining the EEA. Anna Soubry has a letter in today’s Times calling for the “softest of Brexit landings”. This all the week after the Lords voted to stay in the single market.
Remainers pushing for “the exact same benefits” of single market membership are being deeply dishonest. It would mean accepting free movement. It would mean being a rule-taker. It would mean ECJ oversight. It would mean paying vast sums to Brussels forever. It would not mean taking back control. Miliband, Morgan, Clegg and Soubry should be honest enough to admit that they are trying to defy the referendum result. Starmer needs to come clean: his call to keep the exact same benefits of the single market is no different…