Labour's 'six tests' for May's Brexit deal risks catapulting Britain towards an extreme Brexit

LONDON — Labour’s Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer will today set out six impossible conditions for backing Theresa May’s final Brexit deal.

At a speech at Chatham House on Monday morning, Starmer will insist that Labour will only vote in favour of May’s deal if it passes “six tests”.

The tests are:

  • 1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
  • 2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
  • 3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
  • 4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
  • 5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
  • 6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?

There is no way that May can pass all of these tests.There is simply no deal available outside of the Single Market and the Customs Union which will deliver the “exact same benefits” as being inside of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

There is simply no deal available outside of the Single Market and the Customs Union which will deliver the “exact same benefits” as being inside of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

This is so obvious as to be barely worth pointing out.

Once we leave the Single Market we will no longer have what Jeremy Corbyn referred to yesterday as “unfettered access” to European markets. Having such unfettered access is one of the main reasons for being part of the EU in the first place.

If the remaining 27 EU states were to offer us such continued unfettered access, without the obligations of being part of the Single Market, then it would defeat one of the central reasons for the continued existence of the EU. You cannot leave a club and then expect to be able to use all the club facilities you used before. It is simply not going to happen.

John McDonnell knew this in the Autumn when he pledged to vote to trigger Article 50 no matter what. Corbyn knew it in February when he whipped his MPs to back the Brexit bill, even if Labour failed to pass a single amendment. And Keir Starmer knows it today.

So what on Earth is Labour playing at?

Stable doors

There is no doubt that Brexit has been seriously damaging to Labour. Since the referendum, the party has seen a growing exodus of both supporters and members. Contrary to much of the reporting on this, most of this exodus has been to the Liberal Democrats and other Brexit-opposing parties. Labour’s determination not to be seen as defying “the will of the people,” while also trying to cling on to its overwhelmingly Remain-supporting voters, has backfired badly on the party. By trying to please everybody, Labour has ended up pleasing nobody.

It is this electoral difficulty, rather than any ideological principle, that is behind Starmer and Corbyn’s interventions. However, it is too late.

However, it is too late.

A no-deal Brexit.

Such positioning has a huge cost. In 18 months time, when Theresa May brings back whatever deal she has managed to secure from the EU, Labour will have a simple choice. The choice will be to either vote for or against that deal. Starmer’s intervention today suggests that Labour will do the latter.

Here’s the problem. While voting against May’s Brexit deal may seem attractive, it comes with a huge risk.

Just imagine the scenario — in eighteen months time May brings back a rudimentary package which promises zero tariffs but falls well short of a comprehensive trade deal. The deal also comes attached with a divorce bill of tens of billions of pounds and the possibility of transitional talks continuing for up to a decade.

A significant number of outraged Tory backbenchers decide to vote against the deal and May suddenly needs the support of Labour to get it passed. So what does Labour do then?According to Starmer’s “six tests” the party has no choice but to join the Tory hard Brexiteers and vote against May’s deal.

But doing so would not force May back to the negotiating table. Downing Street has insisted that there will be no renegotiation if Parliament votes against her deal and in any case there will be no time for her to do so.

Instead, Britain will crash out of the EU on World Trade Organisation terms with all of the ruinous economic and political consequences that would follow such an outcome. Labour would then immediately be complicit in ensuring the hardest and most extreme form of Brexit possible.

Is this really the position Labour wants to put itself in?

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.

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