The publicity now given to the decision of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition to start opposing the government on Europe is indicative of its curious failure to do so hitherto (Report, 28 August). Labour’s new policy of a very soft Brexit is to be welcomed, but for all the advocates of such a policy there is the huge question mark hovering overhead – why advocate adhering to the single market and the customs union without also insisting on being part of the decision-making process on the rules of these bodies? This is the essential weakness of those who keep insisting that the UK will leave the EU.
Your leader (So far, so good. Labour’s soft Brexit move changes the debate, 28 August) states that “further steps are not ruled out”; unless this includes taking the first opportunity to reverse article 50, Labour’s change of direction is only taking us down a side alley.
• It matters much less what Labour party policy is on our transition out of the EU, than what their policy is on the shape of the final destination. We are given to understand that Jeremy Corbyn would favour remaining in the single market and customs union long term, rather than leave it altogether, if he is able to negotiate a special arrangement for the UK on the issue of freedom of movement. Isn’t that remarkably similar to the policy that David Cameron followed in 2015? Cameron, of course, failed. Corbyn might be more successful and produce a new freedom of movement deal for the UK acceptable to all 27 EU states and to the UK electorate. If that happens then one of the biggest issues for the electorate goes away. So why focus now on just the single market and customs union? Why leave the EU at all? Surely any successful negotiations on this issue should prompt another referendum.
Midhurst, West Sussex
• The Socialist Labour party warned that the Labour party would betray not only its members but the democratic vote by the British people to leave the European Union. As soon as that vote was announced on 23 June 2016, Britain should have left the EU, including the customs union, the single market and, above all, the “free movement of labour and capital” which has seen the population of Britain rise from 59 million to 67 million. The UK should not pay a penny or cent to the EU. If the border in Ireland is a concern, the solution is simple: return Northern Ireland back to the Republic of Ireland from where it was taken.
Leader, Socialist Labour party
• Labour’s establishment tendency has made its major play to sabotage the prospects of a Labour government seriously challenging austerity with this plan to stitch up a transitional deal that would keep Britain in the single market and customs union. The prospect that a Labour government might sweep away the austerity straitjacket is weakened with the commitment to fully accept the EU treaties, rules and directives that constrain public spending, inhibit public ownership and police the EU marketisation regime. The decision will threaten Corbyn’s reputation for straightforward dealing and honesty. Millions of Labour voters – including many who were won back in the last election – will see this as a betrayal. Corbyn’s careful positioning on Brexit, his immediate pledge to respect the referendum result, his emphasis on protecting the rights of EU citizens living and working here, and on strengthened workers’ rights for all went a long way to detoxify the post Brexit debate.
This is now threatened.
• The senior Labour MPs in heartland seats are quite right to be concerned about the change in Labour’s Brexit stance. This policy may be fine when Labour is in government, but even if Theresa May’s government falls tomorrow, it makes taking power much more difficult. Labour need another 60 seats; where will those seats come from if they alienate the former Labour voters who voted leave? As a matter of urgency, Labour needs to put together and publicise policies on immigration, investment and jobs for the communities left behind by successive governments, Labour and Tory, over the past 40 years.
Plans need to be set out to tackle poverty wages and increase opportunities for good, well-paid and secure employment in current blackspots. Undercutting of wages must end, the problem of delays with GP appointments tackled. There must be an agreed plan for investment in social (not just affordable) housing. Labour needs to spell out plans to improve road and rail networks in the north and Midlands; the transport minister saying last week that it is up to councils in the north to improve rail links between northern cities is a disgrace.