This is rousing material from Jeremy Corbyn:
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 18, 2017
In more detail, here is what he said in his speech responding to Theresa May’s statement on last week’s European Council meeting:
“We welcome progress to the second phase of negotiations but that should not hide the fact that this agreement comes two months later than planned and many of the key aspects of phase one are still unclear. These negotiations are vital for people’s jobs and for the economy; our future prosperity depends on getting this right.
“The agreement reached on phase one was clearly cobbled together at the eleventh hour after the Democratic Unionist party vetoed the first attempt, as is evident in the vagueness of the final text, which underlines the sharp divisions in the Cabinet. As we head into phase two, the truth is that the Government must change track. We cannot afford to mishandle the second stage. The Prime Minister must now sort out the contradictions. We were told last week that the Prime Minister’s humiliating loss on giving Parliament a final say on a Brexit deal made her weak, and the Daily Mail, which previously branded the judiciary “enemies of the people”, is now whipping up hatred against Back-Bench rebel MPs. Threats and intimidation have no place in our politics, and the truth of it is that it is division and in-fighting in her own Cabinet and their reliance on the DUP that makes them weak. So will the Prime Minister welcome Parliament’s vote to take back control?
“We have already seen Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, such as the Brexit Secretary and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, give the impression that the agreement can be changed or ignored—that it effectively does not amount to a hill of beans. It is not very reassuring that this is the end product of eight months of negotiation. Will she set out which parts of the financial settlement agreed between the UK and the EU will be paid if a final deal between the EU and the UK cannot be struck? Given the delays to the phase one deal, can the Prime Minister now see that cementing in statute a time and date on which Britain will leave the European Union could hinder negotiations?
“I am glad that the Prime Minister now seems determined to follow Labour’s call for a transition period to create stability—[Interruption.] In case Government Members do not want to hear it, Mr Speaker, I will repeat the sentence. I am glad that the Prime Minister now seems determined to follow Labour’s call for a transition period to create stability as we leave the European Union. It is necessary that we remain in the single market and customs union for a limited period, allowing a smooth transition for British business. However, there was more Government confusion on this over the weekend. Will the Prime Minister clarify whether we will remain subject to the rules of the single market and the customs union during this transition period? Does she envisage that the UK will also remain a member of the common agricultural policy and common fisheries policy, and can she clarify whether it will be possible under the phase one agreement to sign trade deals during the transition period?
“There were also worrying reports over the weekend about what some senior Cabinet Ministers will demand from the Prime Minister to support a phase one deal. These demands were reported to include that Britain should leave the working time directive. Can the Prime Minister state now, categorically, that she will face down this push from some in her Cabinet and that Britain will maintain the standards of the working time directive both during a transition period and beyond? Will she also guarantee that the Government will not seek to use Brexit to water down any other working or social rights in this country? Will she commit to maintaining access for UK students to the Erasmus programme beyond the current budget period?
“These issues are important to people’s jobs and living standards. It is becoming clear that many on the Government Benches want to use Brexit to rip up rights at work, environmental standards and consumer protections, and to deregulate our economy. For many of them, Brexit is a chance to make Britain a tax haven for the super-rich. Let me be clear: Labour will do everything in our power to stop that.
“The choice is becoming clear: a Tory Government who will use Brexit to protect the very richest, slashing corporation tax and the regulations that protect working people, or a Labour vision that would protect jobs, the economy and investment by building a relationship with our closest trade partners, and not starting a race to the bottom in which people’s jobs and living standards will suffer.”
A large number of big questions were posed in that speech.
Did Mrs May answer all of them – or indeed any?
See for yourself:
“He said that the phase 1 agreement was vague. In fact, it is the result of significant work over a number of months. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at it carefully, he will see that it is detailed in relation to citizens’ rights. It gives reassurances to EU citizens here in the United Kingdom and UK citizens living in the EU 27 that they can carry on living their lives as they have done, and that their life choices will be respected.”
Oh dear. That part of the agreement was dictated by the EU27, not the UK. Perhaps that is why it has more detail.
“The Council also confirmed on Friday that discussions will now begin on trade and the future security partnership. I set out the framework for our approach to these discussions in my speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence. We will now work with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that I firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.”
You see, this is much less detailed. And on workers’ rights she becomes downright opaque:
“This Government will not only maintain but enhance workers’ rights.”
Oh, really? In what way?
This was an opportunity for Mrs May to deny the claim that she is being urged to scrap the EU’s Working Time Directive – but she didn’t. It was an opportunity for her to explain exactly how she intends to “enhance” workers’ rights – but she didn’t. It was an opportunity for her to assure us all that the Conservative Party will not meddle with our working and human rights in any way – but she didn’t.
It isn’t proof that she will capitulate to the Goves and Johnsons in her Cabinet – but it might as well be.
Bear in mind also that she said: “I note that he said that we should have triggered article 50 the day after the referendum. That would have meant that there was no time to prepare our negotiating position and we would be leaving the EU in six months without having done the proper work to make sure that there was that smooth and orderly progression, and that we did not disrupt our economy in the ways that the right hon. Gentleman has talked about.”
This fails to take account of one fairly obvious issue:
The Conservative government, in the run-up to the EU referendum, should have carried out all the work necessary to ensure that it knew exactly what Brexit would entail and how to ensure a smooth and orderly progression toward it in the event of the vote going that way. It didn’t. That is why negotiations with the EU27 are such a godawful shambles now.
One last point: Immediately after Mrs May sat down, Iain Duncan Smith got on his cloven hoofs and, referring to the threats of violence and intimidation received by members of his own party after they voted against the government on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill last week, said: “I agree with my right hon. Friend that attacks on MPs’ family members, particularly in vulnerable conditions, should be absolutely outlawed.”
How very interesting.
What about attacks on people, particularly in vulnerable conditions, who aren’t members of Parliament or their family members?
This Writer recalls very clearly that Mr Duncan Smith, in his former role as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, positively revelled in threatening vulnerable claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, to name just a few examples.
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