Thursday 13th July 2017 saw the publication of the Tories ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which they claim will provide our Parliamentary exit from the EU to incorporate EU law into U.K. law.

Whilst that sounds simple enough, and on the face of it people might not disagree with it following the EU referendum of 23rd June 2016, the Great Repeal Bill does contain some seriously worrying elements. Elements which acutely highlight the difference between Labour’s approach to Brexit and the Tories.

A Labour Brexit is better than a Tory Brexit because we seek to protect our trading arrangements for the sake of our economy, our employment rights, our environment, our human rights, and our Parliamentary sovereignty. All things diametrically the opposite of what is provided for in the Tories Great Repeal Bill. Our approach is one of inclusion and working with our trading partners for our prosperity and for the ‘many not the few’. The Tories aim to work for the few and not the many. The few being themselves.

A Tory Brexit is bad for our country and this is why:

The Tory thinking has been muddled in its approach towards the EU negotiations because they are both trying to keep a lid on their own warring factions, and mask what they really want to achieve which is a cliff edge, low tax, low rights, low wage economy of an EU exit with no intention of any deal. It is clear to Labour that any Tory deal with the EU would frustrate such Tory ambition. It’s why Theresa May has repeatedly said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, which should serve as a warning because no deal means WTO rules and they are indeed worse than the deal we have now. Tory plans will result in everyone except the rich getting poorer, the Tories see it as an ideological extension of austerity, and Labour vehemently opposes austerity. The Tory cliff edge Brexit will have a devastating impact on our economy and trading arrangements, and it seems the Tories believe this can be countered by a bargain basement, low corporation tax offshore haven off the coast of Europe, propped up by a U.K. USA trade deal that could asset strip our NHS similar to the proposals in the defeated EU-USA TTIP deal that caused such outrage. The Tory vision of Brexit is ideological folly, bereft of real vision or hope for our people, and risks wrecking our economy.

What the publication of the Tories Great Repeal Bill revealed is that buried deep within it, and its memorandum, are the fundamental building blocks of the Tory vision for Brexit. It’s actually based on human rights erosions, employment rights attacks, and environmental vandalism. What’s more, it even seeks to strip EU citizens of their rights post Brexit making them second class citizens if ‘no deal’ is achieved; something which even the most ardent Brexiteer, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, actually disagrees with, and an erosion of rights, which for Labour is a red line. You can only get a ‘good deal’ if you enter negotiations meaningfully and with honest intent. There is nothing honest about the Tory approach to Brexit because from the start it’s been about power and their own internal squabbling over Europe.

Labour has therefore rightly condemned the Tory approach and will do its best to stop its progress through Parliament. This is because Labour does not want to give, on our departure day from the EU, the Tory Govt a blank cheque to do as it wishes without reference to Parliament. It is of course even possible that resistance to the Bill is so fierce because there is opposition not only from Labour on it, but the LibDems and from within Tory ranks too, that it might bring down Theresa May, her Government, and halt Brexit. What then? Another General Election? Another Referendum? This is how high the stakes are and the Tories are playing politics with people’s lives.

The Great Repeal Bill has things within it that threaten our hard-fought Parliamentary democracy and despite the public being told that Brexit will allow us to “take back control”. The Great Repeal Bill should not allow the Tories to be dictators in Government to achieve their own ends to usurp Parliament and sell our country to the highest corporate bidder on the backs of our people and an erosion of our fundamental human rights. The Bill is the greatest con-trick and Tory power grab in modern history.

If you doubt the Tories intentions, the following 3 elements of the Great Repeal Bill are contained within it and clearly illustrate their direction of travel post Brexit and highlight why Labour will oppose it:

  1. A clause permitting ministers to alter employment & environmental protections without reference to Parliament if Ministers deem it it appropriate.
  2. Memo from Ministers confirming EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to be dumped on the day the UK leaves the EU (Note: This Charter protects your citizens rights such as entitlement to dignity, equality, freedom, solidarity, justice, family life, assets etc).
  3. The power to modify, limit, or remove the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. if no deal is reached.

Make no mistake, on many levels this is an important Bill, but the Tories cannot and should not be allowed to use Brexit to further their own ideological ambition of yet more austerity in order to serve their corporate paymasters. Paymasters who want to see us as an EU offshore corporate tax haven with fewer citizens rights, poorer environmental legislation, less regulated employment market with low wages to ‘compete’ with the likes of China, and all to serve the greed of the 1% richest to continue tax dodging and wrecking our most valued asset – our planet and our people’s lives.

There is a better way, it is Labour’s way, which is for the many not the few, for equality and prosperity for all, and for the protection of our hard earned rights over centuries, and the environment on which we all depend. Labour seeks a good deal on Brexit to protect jobs, our economy, and our rights – and is based on negotiations undertaken in good faith, not a xenophobic shouting match. As a trade union negotiator myself, I know that to get a good deal you need to do things in good faith, be honest, direct, considered, conciliatory, and empathetic to be able to understand how to cut the deal. That is real strength, it is not arms length shouty posturing which is the only tactic evident in the Tory approach to Brexit, and it worries me deeply. It should worry us all.

Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour Party

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