Labour must unite behind Corbyn and Leonard - John Prescott
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott writes exclusively for the Red Robin
As Scottish Labour gathers this weekend in Dundee its becoming clearer that the winds of change are sweeping across Europe. This week Labour’s sister party in Italy lost power to nationalist insurgents with Eurosceptic sentiments. It’s a pattern repeated in Germany and France, where socialist parties performed badly against a rise of nationalism.
Look across the Atlantic, and we see a right-wing US President hell-bent on pursuing an America First policy that seeks to build walls not bridges with the rest of the world with tariffs on trade.
Only one party seems to be bucking the trend – Labour.
Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard in Scotland, Labour has recognised the will of people in the UK to change our relationship with the EU but to turn it to Britain and Scotland’s advantage.
Labour has been leading the debate on securing the best terms for our withdrawal from the EU as is stands. We fought for a transition period where we remain in the Single European and the Customs Union to protect jobs, trade and livelihoods and won a meaningful vote on the final deal to stop any Tory Brutal Brexit that harms our rights, standards and protections.
Last week, Jeremy went further to map out our future EU relationship, insisting Labour will commit to a new Customs Union that will protect manufacturing jobs and secure the best access to Single European Market to guarantee friction free trade.
But remaining in the current Single European Market is not an option. No country is a full member of the Single Market outside the EU. Those who have access are rule takers but not rule makers. In other words they have no say or voting rights in relation to the issues that affect their countries and it was many of the Single Market rules, including that over freedom of movement, that led to many people voting to leave.
So Corbyn and Leonard are absolutely right to campaign for this new relationship; not a status quo which not only the British public rejected, but increasingly that other European countries are too.
Instead, we should seize this moment to reclaim powers and resources from Brussels and hand them down directly to our nations and regions. We should not do what the Tories are doing and grabbing power from, and undermining, the devolved administrations; and potentially provoking a constitutional crisis in doing so.
I was proud to be part of the Labour Government that delivered the Scottish Parliament. But I want us to go much further in giving greater power and resources to Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland and all our regions.
As it has done in Westminster, Labour must lead that debate with our European friends on how we bring about that change to protect jobs, rights and living standards.
Not cling to existing structures and relationships that are increasingly no longer fit for purpose.
To do so requires our Party to move forward together with a unity of purpose.
It is together that we will most effectively hold the shambolic Tories to account - as well as the SNP in Scotland - and its by working together that will guarantee our country achieves a jobs first Brexit deal.
As it is always is, it is only Labour working together with a common purpose that will heal divisions, transform our country and ensure our economy always works in the interests of the many not the few.