October’s meeting of the General Committee (GC) of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party, began with a briefing on Brexit organised (very well) by two members of our Executive, Ian McIsaac and Anne Thompson. Members split into groups to discuss various aspects of the referendum result and the European Union.
A majority of members had supported “remain” in the referendum (in line with 69% of the voters in Brighton and Hove) and were still in favour of remaining within the EU – but a sizeable minority had voted “leave” or now felt that the UK should leave the EU. Delegates with varying opinions and a range of different knowledge and understanding about the EU engaged in wide ranging and comradely discussion.
This constructive exercise set the scene for an equally comradely debate around policy motions which divided opinion on the GC, but which ended with clear policy being adopted which reflected the majority “pro-remain” position of local people and Party members.
Brighton Pavilion Labour Party understands that the national Party needs, in developing its policy, to take account of the wide range of views about the EU and “Brexit” among labour supporters across the country – but we need to reflect the views of Party members in our locality in order to play a constructive role within that process.
Enemies of the Party, and its leadership have tried, on more than one occasion to make use of the issue of “Brexit” to attack the leadership for the cautious approach which they have adopted since the outcome of the referendum. The balanced and friendly debate between Labour Party members with different opinions at Brighton Pavilion GC demonstrates that the time when this important issue could be used mischievously to cause dissent within the Party has passed.
This is the first resolution which was agreed, proposed by Preston Park Branch:
This CLP calls on the national Labour Party to adopt a policy of retaining membership of the Single Market through remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Customs Union. The Treasury estimate that moving from the soft Brexit of the EEA to the hard Brexit of a Canadian-type deal costs an additional £16 billion in lost tax revenue each year (equivalent to 4 pence on the basic rate of Income Tax). If we default to WTO rules, then the annual, additional tax loss may be as high as £25 billion. Existing Labour Party policy of seeking ‘access’ to the Single Market, or stressing ‘function not form’, is too risky as the UK may not be able to gain comparable benefits to Single Market membership in negotiations. The current approach risks major economic harm and cuts to public services in future years. This CLP calls on our Chair to send this resolution to the Leader, to adopt this motion as CLP policy and to encourage CLP delegates to support the position of retaining membership of the Single Market and Customs Union in any relevant vote at Party Conference.
And this is the second resolution, eventually agreed by 29 votes to 27 with 9 abstentions, following a lengthy debate, which was proposed by Hanover and Elm Grove Branch:
This branch notes that:
- The Article 50 Bill passed through parliament without significant amendment committing the UK to withdrawing from the European Union
- It is now expected to take around two years for negotiations on Britain’s exit to be completed
- Brexit Secretary David Davis has promised parliament a final vote before the conditions of withdrawal are put to the European Parliament, although this will be a ‘take it or leave it’ choice, the alternative is likely to be to leave without a trade deal and rely on higher World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs.
- The people of Brighton and Hove voted three to one in favour of remaining in the European Union.
This branch believes that:
- Labour is an internationalist party that considers peace and prosperity in Europe is best served through membership of the European Union.
- The outcome of the EU Referendum in June 2016 is noted. The referendum was on a broad principle with no details of what leaving the EU means.
- False promises were made, especially about funding to the NHS. The franchise was limited with 16 and 17 year olds, who are most likely to be affected by Brexit, denied a vote. And in normal circumstances a constitutional change would be expected to require more than a simple majority.
- A second referendum asking whether the British people support the terms and conditions of leaving the EU should be held before it is sent to the European Parliament for ratification.
- The status quo should prevail in event of a ‘No’ vote rather than the adoption of WTO tariffs. It should then be up to parliament whether renegotiations take place.
- While supporting the Labour party position, as set out by Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer in his six tests before supporting the final Brexit deal, we believe that should include a firm commitment to remaining in the Single Market and to protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.
This branch therefore calls on Pavilion CLP to:
- Adopt this motion as its submission to the Labour Policy Forum.
- Support a campaign for a second referendum on the final terms of leaving the EU and in the event of a ‘no’ vote, stay with the status quo and revoke Article 50 rather than fall back on WTO tariffs.
- Support Keir Starmer’s six tests, strengthening its commitment to remain in the Single Market and to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.