Unite has thrown its support behind a Labour amendment to Brexit legislation that calls on the government to negotiate “full access” to the EU single market, saying it demonstrates that only Labour can be trusted to represent the interests of working people during the Brexit process.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called on the government to drop its “calamitous” red lines that are strangling the progress of the negotiations and driving Britain ever closer to an economic cliff edge when it leaves the EU next March.
The amendment, tabled by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, is one of a number of new Labour amendments designed to force the government to deliver a deal that doesn’t cause significant harm to jobs and living standards.
Such a deal includes retaining the benefits of the single market, the prevention of new trading obstacles, the protection of common rights and standards and the sharing UK-EU regulations and institutions.
Starmer said, “Labour will only accept a Brexit deal that delivers the benefits of the single market and protects jobs and living standards. Unlike the Tories, Labour will not sacrifice jobs and the economy in the pursuit of a reckless and extreme interpretation of the referendum result.”
“Existing single market agreements that the EU has negotiated with third countries, including Norway, are bespoke deals negotiated with the EU to serve the best interests of those countries. We need to learn from them and negotiate our own more ambitious agreement, which serves our economic interests and which prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland.”
Starmer said that two years on from the referendum it is clear that the government “no plan for how it will protect jobs and the economy, and guarantee no hard border in Northern Ireland.”
He added, “Labour’s amendment, along with a commitment to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union with the EU, is a strong and balanced package that would retain the benefits of the single market. Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and vote on it.”
McCluskey welcomed the amendment, saying it demonstrates that only the Labour party can trusted to defend the jobs and living standards of working people through the Brexit process.
He said, “This move signals that only Labour understands the vital importance of tariff-free access to a single market in order to support trade and sustain jobs. We urge the Prime Minister to drop her calamitous red lines because a Tory Brexit puts the jobs and livelihoods of working people in severe jeopardy.
“If investment flees this country it is because there have been two wasted years since the vote because the Tories have been negotiating and warring with themselves. This issue is simply too important for our nation’s future to be determined by Tory squabbling.”
McCluskey added, “We need a government that puts the interests of the people, not narrow party interests, first. On Brexit, Labour is doing just that.”