The first thing to note is that official Labour policy is still as set out in the General Election manifesto earlier this year. It says:
We will scrap the Conservatives’
Brexit White Paper and replace it
with fresh negotiating priorities that
have a strong emphasis on retaining
the benefits of the Single Market
and the Customs Union – which
are essential for maintaining
industries, jobs and businesses in
Britain. Labour will always put jobs
and the economy first.
What it doesn't say is Labour plan to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. Official policy is in fact virtually exactly the same as the Conservatives. A new separate deal with a "have cake and eat it" approach.
Indeed Labour's leader Jeremy Corbyn has consistently and for a long time been against the EU itself. After last year's referendum, he was one of the first to ask for the immediate serving of the Article 50 notification to withdraw from the EU. So desperate that he wasn't going to give the Government machine any chance to prepare. Labour had a three line whip in support in the eventual revocation debate.
Make no mistake, Labour's official policy is "Hard Brexit".
So what about Keir Starmer's announcement at the weekend?
Firstly this was only in a newspaper article. Keir is Labour's "Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union" and the most senior spokesman on Brexit. [UPDATE] Jeremy Corbyn has now endorsed his announcement, but "Can't say" what will happen after transition period.
Indeed you will find no mention of any policy change if you search on the Labour website. The last news there on Brexit is a Keir speech in May and a Corbyn speech just before the General Election in June in which he said "We will confirm to the other member states that Britain is leaving the European Union. That issue is not in doubt." and talks about a new partnership "deal". Just like the manifesto.
So why are esteemed publications such as the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph calling it a "new policy"? It's 'Fake News' folks. Let's look at what Keir actually said in his Guardian article
He starts "We need a transitional Brexit deal..." and goes on to say "A credible solution to one of the most important issues facing Britain’s exit from the EU." He explains that Labour's idea of a transitional period will be different from the Conservatives, saying "a transitional period under Labour will be as short as possible, but as long as is necessary."
Everything else in his article is consistent with the manifesto. It's still a Hard Brexit. Only deferred. It is not a Soft Brexit. Any reference to a new policy or Soft Brexit is frankly 'Fake News'.
But hang on a minute. Is it coincidence that a new Labour group was launched at the same time, which Chuka Umunna is promoting? It calls itself Labour4SingleMarket.org. First impressions may be that the Single Market is Labour policy. But it makes it clear inside that "The Labour Campaign for the Single Market seeks to shift Labour Party policy into one of unequivocal support for staying in the Single Market by remaining a member of the European Economic Area and the Customs Union. We have TWO WEEKS at the beginning of September to get a motion submitted to Labour Party Conference to ensure this is our policy - please do everything you can to help."
However there's no proposal as to how that is to be achieved. Unlike the Just Party, whose EEAplus HalfBrexit proposal is gathering interest. The devil's in the detail, but at least we have a starting point that should have strong support in the UK, and solves many of the EU's issues..
Labour gave a misleading impression to youngsters about existing Student Loans in the final days of the General Election, which Corbyn neither endorsed nor denied. But Labour has since explained this was no more than a hope. The media reported it as policy. That was the impression I got without having time to delve deeper before the vote. I spoke at the time to graduates who were duped and voted Labour as a result. Here we go again on Brexit.
So Labour can't be trusted. Labour can't be trusted on the economy as Gordon Brown proved, yet official Labour policy now is even further to the left. Labour can't be trusted on Student Loans. Labour can't be trusted on the defence of the UK. Labour can't be trusted on Brexit. In fact Labour can't be trusted on anything.
If you want a Caring Society, paid for by a Thriving Economy then you need The Just Party. Just for you!