Phase one of negotiations are over. That is, the first phase of the Conservatives backing down on every red line they set has come to an end.
The rights of EU citizens, the UK’s so-called divorce bill and the border on Northern Ireland. In all cases, the Conservative party has come round to both Labour’s position and the demands of the EU.
Evidently, the series of red lines laid down by Mrs. May in the first round were unproductive, unhelpful and ineffective. In the second round, there is a far larger danger: that we will end up with a Canada-style free trade agreement.
That is the view of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who said as the UK and EU wound up its talks last Friday that Britain’s demands to break away from the Single Market and customs union leave no option other than a goods free-trade deal. The EU Council guidelines on transition and trade, published the same day, make clear that there is a binary choice and the UK cannot have Norway-style benefits with Canada-style freedoms. Britain needs to choose.
And it is time for the Government to accept that the Canada deal does not fit our country. As Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, pointed out, it “does nowhere near enough to protect workers’ rights and public services”.
A Canada-style deal would not protect jobs, living standards, environmental rights or protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Only staying in the Customs Union and Single Market will secure all of the rights we have come to rely on. Labour was right to call for continued membership during the transition phase and put continued membership back on the negotiating table.
MPs must now go further: vote to ensure the Government cannot force us out of the Single Market without Parliamentary approval, as well as backing the vote to make sure there is a meaningful vote in Parliament at the end of the Brexit process. The future of our country depends on it.
Catherine West is Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green, International Trade Select Committee member and a leading supporter of Open Britain