Boarded-up housing in Middlesbrough: ‘Leave voters were concentrated in former industrial areas hit hardest by low pay, job insecurity and economic stagnation’ [Image: Alamy].

Boarded-up housing in Middlesbrough: ‘Leave voters were concentrated in former industrial areas hit hardest by low pay, job insecurity and economic stagnation’ [Image: Alamy].

Members of This Writer’s local Labour branch have been asking for guidance on Labour’s  response to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Here it is – at least in part – according to Jeremy Corbyn.

Notice that, while Mr Corbyn says Labour will respect the decision of the British people, he does not mention invoking Article 50 and going through the process of leaving the EU.  All he says is that we must negotiate a new relationship with that organisation.

It seems to me that he has been considering possible options for the UK, and ways of getting the best out of a continuing relationship with the EU – a relationship we must have, since it is the most powerful trading bloc in the World – while also ridding ourselves of restrictions that may have hindered the UK’s economy.

Labour has the initiative on this issue.

While the Tories are focusing on their little leadership election, involving less than a quarter of one per cent of the population, Mr Corbyn is focusing on issues that will involve us all.

Since voters decided to leave the European Union, those divisions have grown wider. There has been a spike in racist and xenophobic incidents. Many remain voters feel shellshocked and alienated from those who backed leave. The country now faces economic and political crisis. The government is in disarray. As Labour demanded, George Osborne has had to drop his plan for a job-destroying budget surplus. But none of those seeking to replace David Cameron has any kind of exit plan. Instead, once again, they are planning to make working people pay, with yet more spending cuts and tax rises.

What’s needed instead is leadership and a clear strategy. We must respect the democratic decision of the British people – and negotiate a new relationship with the EU: one that protects jobs, living standards and workers’ rights – and also ensures we have the freedom to reshape a 21st century economy for all our people.

Labour campaigned to “remain and reform” the European Union, and two-thirds of Labour supporters voted remain. That gives us a strong basis to bring together voters from both sides – and set a progressive agenda for negotiations that reflect the needs of the majority. The starting point has to be the red lines laid out by Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell: including the maintenance of existing employment and social rights, freedom of trade with Europe, and protection of work and residency rights for both EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in Europe.

During the referendum campaign, we argued for an end to EU-enforced liberalisation and privatisation of public services – and for freedom for public enterprise and public investment, now restricted by EU treaties. Those freedoms need to be part of the coming negotiations. Labour also campaigned for tougher regulation of the jobs market and of the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions, as the best way to protect jobs and living standards in the EU.

I am meeting fellow European socialist leaders in Paris this week to discuss the refugee crisis and Europe’s future after Britain’s vote to leave. The increasing momentum to reform the EU will strengthen the Labour case.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn: We can’t leave the negotiations with Europe to the Tories | Opinion | The Guardian

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