On Monday, the Labour Party announced it would push forward an amendment to the government’s Brexit motion—to be voted on by 12 March—that would make its “credible alternative plan” the U.K.’s Brexit negotiating position.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will tell a meeting Monday night that the party will back the amendment to take no-deal off the table as well as either proposing or supporting a further amendment in favour of a public vote—a second referendum, in other words—to prevent what it calls a “damaging Tory Brexit.” In a press release making the announcement, Corbyn also said he would seek “to enshrine Labour’s five Brexit demands in law.”
The Cooper-Letwin amendment was put forth by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Conservative Oliver Letwin and proposes legislation for a delay to the U.K.’s exit date in order to avoid no-deal. It is something that Prime Minister Theresa May has strongly opposed.
“The Prime Minister is recklessly running down the clock, in an attempt to force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous No Deal. We cannot and will not accept. We will also be backing the Cooper-Letwin amendment to rule out a No Deal outcome. One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent No Deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of Labour Party
While May has been having unproductive talks with EU officials, Corbyn and members of his shadow cabinet appear to have been faring much better at meetings in Brussels and Madrid. “We are convinced our alternative,” said the party leader in the press release, “which puts jobs and living standards first, could command support in the House of Commons, bring people who voted Leave and Remain together, and be negotiated with the EU.” The hardliners in May’s own party would never agree to Labour’s five demands, but then, they also don’t support May’s negotiated deal.
A new referendum is likely—though its precise terms are not known—to give a choice between a no-deal Brexit, no Brexit at all, and a deal that contains Labour’s demands. The amendment will not receive universal support from Corbyn’s own party, however. A number of Labour MPs are likely to abstain or vote against any plans for a second referendum, including some cabinet members.
The full text of Labour’s amendment
That this House instructs Ministers:
- to negotiate with the European Union for changes to the political declaration to secure:
- a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the European Union;
- close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;
- dynamic alignment on rights and protections;
- commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and
- unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases.
- to introduce primary legislation to give statutory effect to this negotiating mandate.
This unexpected move by the Labour Party—which suffered its own defections last week because of Brexit intransigency—is likely a reflection of growing no-deal panic. Just last week, the government admitted that there would be “chaos” at St Pancras railway station if there was no deal, with daily queues that could reach up to 15,000 passengers for Eurostar International—the channel tunnel train.
It also transpired that the closure of Honda’s Swindon plant—with the potential loss of 7,000 jobs—which it was claimed had “nothing” to do with Brexit, particularly a no-deal Brexit, had everything to do with a no-deal Brexit. The standard concerns included: the crucial ability to deliver two million parts a day, 20 percent of which come from Europe; increased customs controls and paperwork, with suppliers having to fill out 60,000 customs declaration forms a year; the fact that 20 percent of staff at Swindon were EU nationals; and concerns about regulatory divergence that could force the company to carry out two different sets of tests on vehicles. And all this despite the government releasing a chirpy, three-minute video of 10 steps to frictionless trade in a no-deal.
Just last week, Ireland announced an omnibus bill incorporating 16 pieces of legislation to try to protect itself from a no-deal that would see World Trade Organisation tariffs virtually destroying agricultural trade with the United Kingdom.
Finally, supermarkets and food manufacturers are stockpiling food and ingredients because of fears of delays or heavy food tariffs of up to 40 percent. Few have been able to obtain authorised economic operator (AEO) status, which enables simplified customs procedures and faster imports. Reports say it is currently taking up to 12 months to obtain AEO approval from HM Revenues & Customs.