The Tory and Labour Brexit cake delusion

Jon Danzig |

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has sparked concerns in Brussels of a no-deal Brexit after he told EU officials that he will vote against any Brexit that fails to deliver “the exact same benefits” as membership of the EU’s Single Market and customs union.

Of course, that’s impossible, because Mr Corbyn has also ruled out accepting membership of the Single Market and its rules – including Free Movement of People.

That, as the EU has been at pains to point out from the start, is a prerequisite for full and frictionless access to their cherished Single Market – the world’s biggest and richest free trade area, and the UK’s biggest trading partner by far.

Mr Corbyn is against membership of the Single Market, because he believes it would hinder Labour from implementing its policies.

On The Andrew Marr Show last year, Mr Corbyn said that continued membership of the Single Market – often referred to as the ‘Norway Option’ – has “restrictions on state aid and state spending.”

He added, “That has pressures on it, through the European Union, to privatise rail, for example, and other services. I think we have to be quite careful about the powers we need as national governments.”

This explains Mr Corbyn’s reluctance both to sign up to the Single Market, and to include a ‘remain’ option if there is another referendum.

His objections to the EU or Single Market membership on the grounds that it would impede Labour’s policies have been debunked many times – for example, most European countries have a nationalised railway system.

But notwithstanding that Mr Corbyn doesn’t want the UK to be a member of the Single Market, or to accept its rules including Free Movement of People, he still expects the UK to negotiate a new deal with the EU that would ensure Britain keeps the ‘exact same benefits’ of the Single Market as we have now.

In a speech earlier this year, Mr Corbyn said:

“Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the Single Market and the customs union… with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections.”

Of course, it’s classic ‘cake and eat it’ nonsense. It cannot be achieved.

Sean O’Grady, deputy managing editor at The Independent commented,

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s plan is just as fantastical as Theresa May’s’.

If Mr Corbyn was now in charge of negotiations with the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, his proposals would be rejected in the same way as Theresa May’s.

The EU have repeatedly made it clear that there can be no cherry picking to the UK’s advantage in the negotiations.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, spelt it out more clearly. He said:

“If you want access to the Single Market – including the financial services – be my guest. But it means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction.

“Such are the rules, and we know the system already in place for Norway.”

He added:

“There must be no hypocrisy in this respect, otherwise it will not work or we would destroy the Single Market and its coherence.”

In summary, Mr Macron gave the same message as all the other EU member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission: to secure frictionless access to the Single Market Britain must pay into the EU budget and accept EU laws.

That’s something Mr Corbyn and Labour’s front bench don’t accept.

So, how could Labour do much better in the negotiations than the Conservatives?

How could they achieve the ‘exact same benefits’ of the Single Market as we have now, without accepting the rules of that Single Market, including Free Movement of People?

Liberal Democrats Brexit Spokesperson, Tom Brake, put it in more stark terms. He warned that Jeremy Corbyn offers “no alternative” and said:

“Corbyn taking over Brexit negotiations from Theresa May is no better than swapping one shady second-hand car salesperson for another. May or Corbyn, there is no good deal that either of them will be able to grasp.

“Corbyn offers no alternative. Liberal Democrats demand better. The only real alternative to the Brexit crisis is to offer the people the final say, including the option to remain in the EU.”

The LibDems have a valid point.

So, the Labour Opposition is offering the nation imaginary cake that doesn’t exist. And the problem is that the Tory government is doing the same.

Last May in Parliament, Prime Minister, Theresa May, summed up her promises for Brexit in just 15-seconds: no hard border on the island of Ireland, and as frictionless trade as possible with the rest of the EU.

Of course, we already have that now. And of course, this cannot be delivered after Brexit.

The Brexit promised by the government – to offer the same benefits of EU membership as an ex-member – is impossible to deliver

The former Brexit Secretary, David Davis, promised a trade and customs agreement with the EU “that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have.” Of course, he could not deliver that. That’s probably why he walked away.

Prime Minister, Theresa May, also said that Brexit can have “the same benefits” as we have now for free trade with the EU. It’s pie in the sky.

Also promised by the government:

  • an agreement with the EU that’s fully negotiated by March next year;
  • no payment for access to the EU market;
  • a complete end to EU rules and regulations;
  • converting around 40 EU trade agreements with 65 countries into UK bespoke deals “one second after midnight” on 30 March 2019.

Promises, promises, promises.

And the truth? These promises cannot be delivered. Brexit cannot work.

The only countries that enjoy frictionless trade with the EU are those countries that are part of the EU Single Market.

If the EU allowed the UK frictionless access to its market, without being subject to all the EU rules and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (all red lines of the government), it would unravel the entire ‘raison d’être’ of the European Union, and put at risk all its existing agreements with other ‘third countries’.

It’s not going to happen.

Of course, the UK could have a free trade agreement with the EU similar to the ones signed recently with Canada and Japan.

But those agreements don’t include frictionless access to the EU, and those agreements don’t cover all the goods that go between the UK and the EU, and they don’t cover services or free movement of people.

It begs the question as to why we are leaving, as clearly we have the best deal now, as a full member of the EU.

In July, Theresa May told the House of Commons Liaison Committee that the UK could have frictionless borders with the EU, without being in the Single Market or the EU customs union.

SNP MP, Angus MacNeil, told the Prime Minister that her plans were “pie in the sky”.

Not only is he right, but Theresa May knows her Brexit plans are pie in the sky.

Before the referendum, Mrs May said clearly and persuasively:

“It is not clear why other EU member states would give Britain a better deal than they themselves enjoy.”

Yet that’s exactly what Mrs May now wants. She says she aims to achieve a new trade agreement with the EU that’s unique to us, that no other country in the world has ever achieved.

Of course, it’s not going to happen. Of course, it’s not going to work.

What’s the point of a club if you are going to allow non-members to enjoy the same or better benefits as members? What club allows that?

► So, here’s the bottom line:

  • Britain needs frictionless trade with the EU.
  • We need free movement of goods, services, capital and people for our country not just to survive, but to thrive.
  • We need to continue with the status quo: the arrangement we have now, the one we’ve had for over 40 years.

► And yet:

  •  We’re leaving all the benefits of the EU, only to desperately try and get back as many of those benefits as we can after we’ve left.
  • We are leaving for no good reason, not one.
  • We are paying around £40 billion (money the UK has agreed we owe to the EU) to settle our debts with the EU, to enable us to have an inferior deal.
  • We will be poorer, and with less sovereignty, fewer rights and protections, restricted trade, and diminished power after we’ve left.

What’s the point? There’s no point.

We have the best cake now – as a full member of the EU. Let’s not give that up for an imaginary cake that can never be baked, never be delivered, and never be eaten.

Let’s not fall for the Tory and Labour ‘cake delusion.’


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