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/ Labour has the policies to confound pundits and win
According to Theresa May, it may be that “Brexit means Brexit”, but her promise of “no early general election” does not actually mean no early general election. This is clearly a cut-and-run election, called before the fallacies of the government promises on Brexit are fully revealed and before the current fall in living standards begins to gather pace.
The prime minister has been obliged to accept that there will be an EU divorce settlement which could run into the tens of billions of pounds.
Now, at EU insistence, there will be no substantive trade talks until that settlement is agreed. Despite this being an earlier “red line” for Theresa May, it also seems that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will continue for some time to come. The prime minister appears to have dropped the ill-considered notion that “no deal is better than a bad deal” —this bluster was absent from her letter triggering Article 50.
Remarkably in recent weeks we have a had a string of cabinet members telling us that Brexit would not lead to a slashing of net migration, that we would need migrants for many years to come, that many (nearly all?) sectors of the economy would seize up without them, that new trade deals would usually mean greater liberalisation of current immigration rules. This new thrust of government policy was unlikely to be welcome to many Leave voters, as cutting migration seems to have been a central motivation for them.
Fundamentally the decline in living standards that is already under way post-referendum is sure to have played a big part in Number 10’s calculations. It is not simply that now the NHS is in permanent winter, social care is in crisis and that cuts to schools’ budgets and the police threaten to push them in the same direction. Crucially, unlike 2015, real wages are falling once more.
Labour has pledged to defend jobs and living standards, its own red line in the Brexit negotiations. We have begun to elaborate policies to do just that, including free school meals, protecting pensioners, defending small businesses, a £10 per hour minimum wage, and so on. All are fully costed, and more will follow.
By contrast, Tory policies will continue to drive living standards lower. No wonder Theresa May is fighting shy of TV debates. Jeremy Corbyn has the arguments and Labour has the policies that can confound the
pundits and win.
* From The Times.