The Prime minister’s Chequers deal shows that it’s not possible to square the circle. We can’t have frictionless trade, make the rules and also be outside the EU. Theresa May has plumped for the best fudge available but it’s not going to stick together. Boris Johnson is right that it would make us a vassal colony – we would be leaving the EU, but now beholden to it without a say.
The No Deal scenario preferred by hard brexiteers of trade on WTO terms and weathering an almightly economic storm is more logical and would give the UK control over borders and trade, but at a price only the most zealous minority could stomach.
So we come back to staying in. Being able to have a say on the rules. Pooling sovereignty and cooperating on the huge international challenges we face. Fighting day in day out for reforming the EU to make it greener, more democratic and holding mutlinationals to account to ensure fairer trade and payment of tax.
But how do we reconcile staying in with our democratic values? Not only did we vote to leave the EU but in the last two years almost all the people who voted Leave still want to do so. Overriding the referendum result without the support of a good proportion of Leave voters would be a travesty for people who already feel powerless and left behind. The consequences for the unity and stability of the country would be horrific – in the long term far worse than leaving the EU.
We must address the underlying reasons that meant that people voted Leave by setting out a radical, but realistic programme of change that we can deliver from within the EU. The pace of change in terms of globalisation has been dramatic over the last twenty years. People need to know that they have some control to shape their daily lives and prospects of fulfilling well paid work.
A programme for change
Our programme for change should include:
- Skills, career paths and rights at work: We should commit to a huge investment in skills training and offering professional career paths in sectors like Social Care. There are worldwide shortages of doctors, nurses and engineers, not just in the NHS. People want to be respected, decently paid and have a chance to get on. By clamping down on gang masters forcing migrants to pick daffodils in Lincolnshire for a pittance we protect the most vulnerable whilst also making these jobs more attractive.
- Transport, housing and health infrastructure: The population of the UK has grown quickly from 59 to 65 million the last 20 years due to an aging population and migration. We should recognise this and agree a five year brake on EU Migration (similar to the offer to David Cameron in 2015) coupled with a national infrastructure programme in order to catch up on the work needed for our population in the 21st century: rail, cycling, schools, houses and hospitals.
- Decentralisation of power: Taking back control means allowing people to make decisions (and even mistakes) that affect where we live and our workplaces. Residents in my constituency feel powerless every day when they see a run-down property in their street, owned by a Landlord who rarely visits with a Council can’t or won’t do anything. We need a Whitehall power give away, devolving income and budgets not just theoretical powers to our region and Councils. We need larger companies restructured so they are not legally beholden to put excessive shareholder profit above people and planet.
A mandate for for staying in the European Union
Arguing about Leave dirty tactics, belittling leave voters or blaming the Conservatives and Labour as they pull themselves apart is not good enough.
We need to address head on the reasons people voted to leave whilst strongly setting out why we should remain in the EU.
Only a party that leads in this way can respect our democracy, bring the country together and have a mandate for staying in the European Union.