Last month, I wondered how Jeremy Corbyn was going to square Labour’s Brexit circle, putting some of the obvious questions: how could access to the Single Market be achieved without being part of it, or indeed, part of the Customs Union? How could Britain regain the confidence of financial institutions looking to relocate their head offices out of the country? How would car manufacturers be persuaded not to pack up their factories and take them across the channel (investment in that sector has declined significantly of late)?
I also noted “The major anxiety for British voters, and increasingly so, is their economic well-being - which may be significantly and potentially adversely affected by departure from the EU. Decisions are about to be made - look for the process to accelerate by September this year - on future investment. Those decisions, should they indicate businesses and jobs moving out of the UK, will only serve to increase that anxiety”.
How could Labour differentiate itself from the Tories’ determination to perform the hardest of Brexits if they could not get a deal in their negotiations with the EU? Well, now we can get an idea of how, after Toby Helm at the Observer brought readers “Labour makes dramatic Brexit shift and backs single market membership … Party opens clear divide with Tories, with support for free movement and paying into EU budgets for up to four years”.
There was more: “In a move that positions it decisively as the party of ‘soft Brexit’, Labour will support full participation in the single market and customs union during a lengthy ‘transitional period’ that it believes could last between two and four years after the day of departure, it is to announce on Sunday”. And yet more.
“[Labour] will also leave open the option of the UK remaining a member of the customs union and single market for good, beyond the end of the transitional period … Permanent long-term membership would only be considered if a Labour government could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules”. But had Jezza signed off on the move?
Yes he had: “The decision … was agreed after a week of intense discussion at the top of the party. It was signed off by the leadership and key members of the shadow cabinet on Thursday, according to [Keir] Starmer’s office”. And the timing could not be better for Labour, or worse for the Tories: Brexit negotiations restart this week.
David Davis has let it be known - well, to the Murdoch Sun, at least - that he is going to be really, really tough with the dastardly Eurocrats. But he said that before, only to cave in when the time came. With many of his own MPs concerned about the slowing economy and the prospect of significant numbers of jobs migrating across the Channel, Davis has now been put under the cosh by Her Majesty’s Opposition.
One rebellion by pro-Single Market Tory MPs and Theresa May could be on her way. And well she and her party know it. Small wonder those who support The Blue Team are trying to play down the Labour move this morning. The rules of the Brexit game just changed.