Time to get serious about the Campaign for the Single Market
The Conservatives are currently making a complete mess of their Brexit negotiations. Theresa May has said that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and unfortunately those seem to be the only options she is offering us.
I campaigned hard for a remain vote during the EU referendum because I believe EU membership brings significant benefits in terms of workplace protections, co-ordinated action on climate change, the right to free movement of people, geopolitical stability, cultural exchange and so much more.
Perhaps the single most important part of being in the EU is the massive boost it provides to our economy: the cost of leaving the EU without a trade deal has been estimated to be as high as £45billion a year. Labour’s 2017 anti-austerity manifesto promised to stop the privatisation of the NHS, to nationalise key utilities such as water, to properly fund our school system and to improve workplace protections. If we want to be able to invest in the UK we can’t afford the multi-billion pound loss to the public finances that leaving without a trade deal would bring, meaning even less money for those already struggling schools and hospitals. This is why we must now campaign to remain in the Single Market.
When the Conservatives adopted a policy of ‘managed decline’ for huge swathes of the country in the 1980s, deindustrialisation led to the loss of skilled jobs that were only replaced slowly, often with badly paid casual and unskilled work. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Over 3 million jobs in the UK are linked to trade with the EU and 430,000 UK businesses benefit from EU trade. By adopting a proper industrial and investment strategy we can build on these existing jobs, upskill our workforce and ensure the UK remains at the forefront of high-tech and service industries across Europe. By remaining in the Single Market we can pay for properly funded public services and create more of these high-skilled jobs.
Of course the Tories don’t want this – they want a Brexit that does away with workers’ rights: the right to maternity leave, the right to time off each week, the right to holiday pay, and equal rights for part-time staff and workers with disabilities. But as long as we remain in the Single Market, British workers remain protected by the Social Chapter and can’t lose these important workplace protections.
Finally, I know people have sometimes worried about whether under Single Market rules we are even allowed to re-nationalise our trains or other utilities: the answer is yes. EU law explicitly states that each individual member state can set its own rules on ownership of utilities; indeed, President Macron has recently announced his intention to nationalise France’s largest shipyard at St-Nazaire. So, in order to nationalise an industry or service in the UK as a Single Market member, all we really need is a willing Labour government!