Trade concern

Labour’s EU policy ‘will not address Brexit impact’

Brexit protest and march
Brexit has not featured significantly in the general election campaign (pic: Terry Murden)

Labour’s EU policy will do little to address the continuing economic impacts of Brexit, according to new research published today. 

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has promised closer ties with the EU and has proposed technical changes to the UK-EU trade deal to reduce red tape.

However, the report by academic think tank UK in a Changing Europe argues that the party has ruled out the key measures – rejoining the single market and / or customs union – which would most significantly aid economic growth.

UK-EU Relations 2024, which draws on discussions with key stakeholders, also finds that the EU may not be very receptive to Labour’s proposals, because UK relations are no longer a priority for it.

To get the EU to negotiate, Labour would need to offer clear incentives, like a mobility agreement, according to the report which will be launched at the UKICE annual conference today. 

It says Labour will have to accept alignment with EU rules, and a degree of oversight from the European Court of Justice if it is to secure its more ambitious proposals, such as a veterinary agreement. The report argues that Labour may not risk this unless it has a substantial majority. 

It also looks at how UK-EU relations have evolved in the past eighteen months. Despite the Windsor Framework agreement, UK-EU political dialogue remains limited. The UK has failed to boost its trade with the rest of the world and the government lacks a clear strategy for coping with EU regulatory changes, which “complicates life” for British businesses.

There will be a number of challenges after polling day. The full implementation of both GB border controls and the Windsor Framework could create new trade problems, while negotiations on Gibraltar and fisheries could cause friction. The application of EU law in Northern Ireland also looks likely to be a continued source of tension. 

Despite all these challenges, polling shows only 13% of voters believe Brexit is one of the most important issues facing the country – down from a peak of 73% in 2019.

UKICE senior researcher, Joël Reland, said: “Labour has maintained a studied silence on Brexit in this election campaign, but if elected it will have to face up to some hard choices.

“Avoiding deals which involve alignment with the EU rules is the politically safer option, but this could well undermine its attempts to boost economic growth.”

Director of UKICE, Anand Menon, added: “While largely absent from the campaign, the UK’s relations with the EU are likely to be a key priority for a new government given not only the need to boost economic performance but also a rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape.

“It is far from clear, however,  whether significant changes in the relationship will be possible.”

Voters sceptical about affordability of pledges

New polling from Ipsos has found that 6 in 10 (63%) of Britons believe that the policies in the Labour party manifesto would represent a positive change for Britain.

This is followed by 55% for the Liberal Democrats, and 44% for the Conservatives.

However, there is some scepticism about the affordability of manifesto pledges. half (50%) of Britons are not confident that the policies contained in the Labour manifesto are affordable within the party’s tax and spending plans (37% are confident).

This rises to 57% for the Liberal Democrats (23% confident), and 62% for the Conservatives (25% confident). 

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