JUST as Labour’s popularity continues to rise and party leader Jeremy Corbyn tours marginal constituencies across Britain, another spoke is driven into Labour’s wheels.
In the zealously pro-EU Observer newspaper, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has announced that a Labour government would seek to negotiate a transitional deal that would keep Britain in the EU single market and customs union after leaving the EU.
Moreover, it would do so on the basis of full acceptance of EU treaties, rules and directives.
Starmer did not spell it out so starkly, but any such arrangement would have to include ongoing net payments into EU funds and continuing subjection to the European Court Justice (ECJ) and its anti-democratic and anti-trade union rulings in support of the super-exploitation of “posted” migrant workers.
That much is well understood and not in dispute.
But this pro-EU shift in Labour’s stance will also be music to the ears of Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU business advisory council, the European Commission and to the latter’s arrogant, inflexible and unelected negotiators.
They will be delighted with Starmer’s deluded hope that running up the white flag would ease the path to a mutually beneficial relationship between Britain and the EU after Brexit, and after any transitional deal has run its course.
In truth, agreeing to remain in the European Economic Area and the customs union on EU terms — which are the only ones available — will weaken Britain’s negotiating position, not strengthen it.
EU negotiators will seize upon it as further evidence that there is a “fifth column” in British political, business and media circles, which still wants to undermine the people of Britain’s democratic vote last year to leave the EU.
Big business, not least the City of London’s financial monopolies, will be emboldened in its demand that we remain enmeshed for evermore in the EU “free market,” where monopoly power dictates the movement of goods, services, capital and labour, backed up by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the ECJ in any disputes with trade unions or elected national and regional governments.
Two other considerations should weigh heavily with Labour supporters, socialists and working people in the light of Starmer’s statement.
First, any move away from the principled position of respecting popular sovereignty and leaving the EU (single market and ECJ jurisdiction and all) runs the risk of driving working-class electors back to the Tories and even Ukip.
It could undermine trust in Jeremy Corbyn’s sincerity and consistency — which many on the pro-EU right of the Parliamentary Labour Party would see as a bonus.
Second, continuing subjugation to EU diktat would mean that many of the policies needed from a future Labour government would fall foul of EU law.
These include measures to regulate trade, control the movement of capital internally or internationally, issue central bank bonds to invest in industry and infrastructure, promote public-sector enterprise, abolish VAT on selected goods or services, impose progressive compliance terms on public-sector contracts, and legislate against the use of “posted” workers to undermine trade unionism and employment standards.
The alternative is to stand up to the EU bureaucrats and the state-monopoly capitalist power they represent.
If a reasonable, mutually beneficial transitional deal can be agreed, all well and good. Similar permanent arrangements for the future would be welcome. But neither should be accepted at the price of capitulating to EU free market, pro-big business rule.