By Nick Clark
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Right wing MPs celebrate Labour’s shift over Brexit

This article is over 6 years, 9 months old
Issue 2569
The Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Queens Counsel, Member of Parliament for Holborn & St Pancras
The Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Queen’s Counsel, Member of Parliament for Holborn & St Pancras (Pic: UK parliament)

The Labour Party has made a shift on its position over Brexit that will please some of left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most bitter enemies.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer announced that Labour wants Britain to stay in the pro-business European single market after leaving the European Union (EU).

In an article published last Sunday, he said a Labour government would aim to have a “transitional period” after leaving the EU.

This would keep Britain in the single market temporarily—and opens the door for staying in it permanently.

Starmer’s announcement, backed by Corbyn, is dangerously close to the position of Tory chancellor Philip Hammond. It was celebrated by right wing Labour MPs.

MPs Alison McGovern and Heidi Alexander launched a new pressure group, Labour Campaign for the Single Market, last Saturday.

They want Britain to stay in the single market for good, claiming it’s the best way to “protect jobs, oppose austerity and defend our rights”.

In reality the single market has nothing to do with opposing austerity—and neither do McGovern and Alexander.

They’re both leading members of Labour’s right wing Progress faction, Labour’s loudest pro-austerity, pro-privatisation, anti-trade union voice.

Progress backs the single market, which was set up to promote and protect the interests of giant corporations.

Its rules have been used to force member states to open up their public services to private competition.

They have made it harder to nationalise industries. They have also been used to stop strikes. And they would be used against a future Corbyn-led Labour government.

Yet the only opposition to the single market within Labour came from MPs such as John Mann.

They want to end the single market’s only positive aspect—the freedom for people to travel and migrate inside the EU.

Meanwhile right wing supporters of the single market also want to end freedom of movement.

The Observer newspaper and the New Statesman hailed Labour’s shift as a shrewd move for Corbyn. Commentators claimed it could shore up Labour’s “young, pro-EU” supporters.

But Labour’s success at the last general election was because Corbyn’s campaign focused on the real division in society, the one between rich and poor.

The left in Labour can put forward a left wing vision for Brexit.

That has to involve extending freedom of movement, ending austerity and privatisation—and opposing the single market.

CWU to back Momentum

The CWU union plans to affiliate to left wing Labour supporters’ group Momentum.

The union, which organises workers in the postal and telecoms industries, announced the plan on Wednesday of last week.

Momentum emerged out of Jeremy Corbyn’s first successful leadership campaign in 2015.

It helped mobilise activists to canvas for Labour in this year’s general election.

It has defended Corbyn against the right in Labour. Yet it has also had problems with infighting, and has been caught between building an outward looking social movement and fighting internal battles within Labour.

A bulletin sent to CWU branches said that the union wants to work with Momentum “to promote a trade union agenda within the Labour Party”.

It also wants to embed “trade union values” within Momentum.

The CWU’s decision was made by its national executive committee in July, and will have to be ratified by its annual conference next year.

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