A Labour government would bring in new laws to protect the rights of workers and EU nationals under Brexit - and give Parliament a possible veto on any deal with Brussels.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer will seek to heal the party’s wounds over the issue with a general election pledge to “reject a reckless Tory Brexit”.
With Labour constituencies split between areas that voted Leave and Remain in last year’s EU referendum, Starmer will argue that he would get a better deal than Theresa May by working with Europe and Parliament rather than against them.
In a speech in central London, he will pledge a Corbyn government would:
- “immediately” guarantee the rights of the three million EU nationals living in the UK
- replace the Tory ‘Great Repeal Bill’ with a new EU Rights and Protections Bill
- give Parliament a “meaningful vote” on any deal with Brussels
- retain the ‘benefits’ of the European single market and customs union
However, pre-released extracts of his speech contained no mention of immigration policy or how the party would approach EU ‘freedom of movement’ for its citizens.
And former Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson told Newsnight he wasn’t clear what Labour’s Brexit strategy really was.
Theresa May kick-started formal Brexit talks by triggering the Article 50 process of quitting the EU last month.
The UK has two years to complete the talks before Brexit in 2019, but some analysts believe the deadline can be shifted if the UK and EU agree.
Starmer will stress a new tone will be taken with the remaining 27 EU nations to avoid a “cliff-edge” Brexit or a “no deal” plan that turns the UK into a low tax, low regulation offshore economy.
A Labour government would build a close relationship with the EU “not as members but as partners”.
“We will approach negotiations in a completely different way to a Tory Brexit: negotiating for the many, not the few,” he will say.
“Where Theresa May wants to shut down scrutiny and challenge, Labour will welcome it. We will work with Parliament, not against it.
“Because on an issue of this importance the Government can’t hide from the public or Parliament. A Labour approach to Brexit means legislating to guarantee that Parliament has a truly meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.”
However, in the absence of the ability to walk away with no deal, Tory critics may see the idea as giving Parliament an effective veto on any Brexit deal, with the possibility that the EU referendum result could be indefinitely postponed.
Labour insiders told HuffPost UK that the economy would be ‘the priority’ and that whether that meant ‘reformed’ single market membership or a bespoke trading arrangement was secondary to the outcome protecting jobs.
Starmer will say that on “day one” of a Labour government, it would immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, - and seek reciprocal rights for the 1.2m UK citizens living in the EU.
“EU nationals do not just contribute to our society: they are our society. And they should not be used as bargaining chips.
“There could be no clearer signal that Britain is taking a new approach to Brexit than a Labour Government immediately rectifying this injustice. And there could no clearer signal that Labour want a close and collaborative future relationship with our EU partners.”
Conservative MP Dominic Raab, member of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, said: “Only Theresa May and the Conservatives can provide the strong and stable leadership the United Kingdom needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.
“But there is a real risk of Jeremy Corbyn – with the support of the SNP and Lib Dems – becoming Prime Minister and being in charge of the Brexit negotiations. He is a weak leader of a divided party who couldn’t get the right deal for the United Kingdom.
“We have a clear plan for the Brexit negotiations, and every vote for Theresa May will strengthen her hand in those negotiations to get a good deal for the UK.”
Dominic Raab, a Tory member of the Brexit Select Committee, said: “There is a real risk of Jeremy Corbyn – with the support of the SNP and Lib Dems – becoming Prime Minister and being in charge of the Brexit negotiations. He is a weak leader of a divided party who couldn’t get the right deal for the United Kingdom.”