Labour Commits to Full, Clean Brexit from EU’s Single Market, Customs Union

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The Labour Party’s leadership has finally acknowledged that Britain must have a full, clean Brexit from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union to fulfil the public vote to leave the bloc on June 23rd 2016.

Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, put the case forward in an article for the Guardian – a Left-liberal, Remain-supporting outlet – in which he claimed anything less than a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ would be “considered a con” by the voting public.

“Brexit arose from key political, rather than trade, objectives: to have control over our borders, to have sovereignty over our laws, not to submit to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and not to pay money into the European budget,” Gardiner began.

“I campaigned to stay in the EU, but as a democratic politician, I have to recognise that these objectives provide the benchmarks by which Leave voters will judge the future trade relations we negotiate with the EU.”

Senior figures in the Labour Party have made lukewarm commitments to Brexit in the past, but Gardiner’s column represents the first full-throated, caveat-free commitment to a clean break from the EU since the referendum.

It comes just days after party leader Jeremy Corbyn admitted that the “wholesale importation of low-paid workers” which the bloc’s Free Movement regime allows “destroys conditions” for British workers, particularly in industries like construction.

Corbyn’s statement followed around a month after the GMB union – one of the 68-year-old socialist’s key backers – made a similar about-face, dropping its long-standing opposition to Brexit and acknowledging that the “pay, terms, conditions and job security of British workers” had been “undercut” by Free Movement.

“Time and again we hear from GMB members that they have been told by their bosses ‘if you don’t want to do this job exactly as I say, there are 20 EU workers who will’,” stated a report on Brexit which the union published last month.

Former UKIP supremo Nigel Farage has suggested that this gradual sea-change in opinion on the mainstream Left is allowing Corbyn to begin showing his “true Brexit colours” – the Labour leader having voted to leave the EEC which preceded the EU in 1975, against the Maastricht Treaty which transformed it into the EU, and against the Lisbon Treaty which handed it sweeping new powers.

Euroscepticism used to be mainstream within the wider Labour Party, with a few veterans such as John Mills, Kate Hoey and the venerable Dennis Skinner – who believed from the beginning that the Single Market would be used to “undermine wages and employment conditions, shifting production to [the] lowest cost countries” – still carrying the flag.

Gardiner in many ways endorsed the same course as his Tory counterpart, long-time Brexiteer Dr Liam Fox, dismissing the possibility of Britain joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – which encompasses Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – because this would mean continuing to accept the Free Movement of People and the effective jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, among other things.

“The UK would technically not be a member of the EU, but we would in effect become a vassal state,” he said.

The Glaswegian also rejected as “deeply unattractive” proposals by Remain-supporting Labour backbenchers led by Chuka Umunna for a permanent customs union arrangement with the EU, due to the likelihood that this would “preclude us from making our own independent trade agreements with our five largest export markets outside the EU (the US, China, Japan, Australia and the Gulf states).”

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