This article was first published on the Huffington Post on 12 May 2017.
In the referendum last year, 60% of Londoners voted to remain within the European Union. But now, Londoners are being dragged along a road they had no desire to go down, driven by a Government which seems utterly indifferent to their wishes and concerns. The Prime Minister has magnified their disillusion by pledging to withdraw Britain from the Single Market and Customs Union, and thus aim for the hardest of hard Brexits.
Today, we and other Labour parliamentary candidates from London and around the country have co-sponsored a pamphlet which outlines the importance of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union to London and the whole of Britain. These institutions create the freest possible trade with the EU - our biggest trading partner, which buys 39% of London’s exports. 650,000 London jobs depend on trade with Europe, and anything which creates barriers to this trade will mean lower growth and fewer jobs.
The Government say we can leave the Single Market and Customs Union and yet negotiate a free trade deal that gives us the “exact same benefits.” There is not a shred of evidence that this is possible. Instead, it is clear that any alternative deal the Government negotiates will be a distant second best. The worst outcome of all would be Brexit with no deal - a chaotic mess that would close London’s international economy off from its global markets. The Prime Minister brags that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” We are clear that neither is acceptable.
Labour has always been the party that stands up for London’s interests. That is why, as London Labour MPs, we are arguing wholeheartedly for Britain to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. If re-elected, this is what we will be campaigning for when Parliament returns.
Labour has held the Government to account for the promises they have made, but with the election taking place in less than a month it is crucial we provide a positive alternative too. That must mean Single Market membership. Labour cannot gain peoples’ trust by supporting a sub-standard future for our economy, or by putting workers’ rights at risk. We need to choose, and we are clear that that choice must put protecting jobs and growth above all.
We do not underestimate the challenge of connecting with the many Labour voters who supported Brexit. But we cannot reach out to communities that voted for Brexit by backing a policy that makes them poorer.
This general election in London is a choice between an uncaring Tory Government, dismissive of London’s views and destructive to its economic interests; and Labour MPs who will fight tooth and nail against a hard Brexit that makes our constituents worse off. There is a better road for London, and we will spend the time between now and election day arguing passionately for it.
The Single Market is a framework of laws, including protections for working people and our natural environment. On the outside, these protections would be up for grabs, as ideologically fixated Tories could take the chance to overturn them in Parliament and challenge them in the courts.