THE LABOUR PARTY has warned that the Government’s Brexit deal must meet its six tests to win support from Labour MPs. The Party’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, promised to reveal what the six tests are on Monday.
Starmer was speaking at the start of the week in which the Government will start the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). On 29th March, Prime Minister Theresa May will advise the EU that the UK wishes to cease being a member state of the EU via a process set out in the EU’s Article 50.
Once the Prime Minister has triggered the process, there will be negotiations on the terms of the departure – and the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK. These are expected to take around 18 months, after which each EU state, as well as the UK, will have to ratify the resulting proposals. At that point, if the UK Parliament does not ratify the new deals, the UK could withdraw from Brexit and remain in the EU. If no agreement can be reached, or if what is agreed fails to be ratified by individual EU states, the UK will be deemed to have left the EU two years after Article 50 was triggered.
While the negotiations with the EU take place, UK Ministers will be reviewing all UK legislation. Much of it was decided in the EU and then automatically incorporated into UK law, and Ministers will have to decide which laws to leave in place and which to amend or even repeal. On 30th March – next Thursday – the Government will introduce a Grand Repeal Bill in Parliament, which will give ministers the power to do this. This has inevitably caused some disquiet, as traditionally in the UK it is Parliament as a whole which decides on legislation – not just government ministers.
It is thought that Labour’s six tests will include remaining a member of the EU Single Market and Customs Union – which is the arrangement that allows EU countries to sell goods and services to each other without imposing taxes or tariffs on what is sold. This would be a very important condition for ordinary people in the UK. Without it, goods and services we import from EU countries will become much more expensive. UK goods and services would also become much more expensive in the EU, so sales would fall and UK jobs would be at risk.
It is also thought that the Labour Party will not insist that the UK has to retain the EU principle of “freedom of movement” which allows EU citizens to move between EU member states and live wherever they want in the EU. The Party is, however, likely to insist that agreement is reached which gives EU and UK citizens some rights of travel – probably based on the needs of UK employers to recruit seasonal workers from Europe.