Be a Voice: Where Brexit has left us now – Labour special report

By Campaign Agent Jujia Li

After more than 40 years membership with the European Union, the UK has voted to leave. We are now half way through the two-year period of Brexit negotiations, and it is scheduled that the UK will depart the EU at 11 pm GMT, on Friday, March 29th 2019. But where has Brexit left us now? 

Currently, Britain has reached agreements with the EU on three issues, including the amount of money that the UK owes the EU (the so-called ‘divorce bill’), a settlement concerning regulatory alignment and Northern Ireland, and what happens to Britons living in the EU, and EU citizens living in the UK. 

A 21-month transition period was secured on March 19th 2018, which could smooth the way to post-Brexit relations. The period of time, which is after the official departure time until the 31st December 2020, theoretically will allow everything to get into place, and help to define the new relationships between Britain and the EU. 

What is Labour’s attitude on Brexit and what are their policies? 

When seeing different partys' position on Brexit, Labour is always an interesting one to look at. The Labour Party campaigned against Brexit in the referendum, but now they have shifted their position, committing to honouring the results and aiming for a “close new relationship with the EU”, in which the right of workers are protected. 

Although Labour now has a plan in leaving the EU, it has avoided spelling out in detail how Britain can depart without a deal in place, if that became the case. Labour’s position has become clearer after most of its MPs voted to trigger Article 50, but there is still a clear gap between its remain-voting and leave-voting seats. 

Jeremy Corbyn claims he would negotiate a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit, which means free barrier trade with Europe. Many institute directors and businesses, especially manufacturers, welcomed the plan, but left with many questions, as there is still an uncertainty about the boarder in Northern Ireland, particularly, what 'full regulatory alignment' actually means.  Corbyn has also ruled out staying a member of the single market, as he suggests that ‘the UK should have a very close relationship with the single market’. He also insists he could persuade Brussels to let the UK have a say in its rules post-Brexit. 

It does appear that following the leadership of the Labour Party, many Labour supporters, even with regret, have now accepted the results of the EU referendum. 

What do Labour supporters think of Jeremy Corbyn? 

Image: Andy Miah @Flickr 

Image: Andy Miah @Flickr 

Jeremy Corbyn, 68, born in Chippenham, Wiltshire, was elected as the leader of the Labour Party in 2015 after the resignation of Ed Miliband, after he lost the General Election in 2015. Before his stint as Labour leader, he has been Member of Parliament for Islington North since 1983, and was also a backbencher. 

The change in Labour’s leadership contest rules in 2014 allowed anyone to take part in ballots for a £3 fee. As Mr Corbyn was the only one who had a link to the £3 affiliate scheme, this move undoubtedly helped him to win. Also, unlike other more polished politicians, his low-key and personable style won him support from swathes of young people, and continues to do so. 

However, his leadership was then challenged by Owen Smith, now Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in 2016 after his campaign against Brexit. Surprisingly, Mr Corbyn won his bid to retain the Labour Leadership, as he received 61.8% of the vote, which is a larger margin of victory than in the previous year’s election. 

On his website, he states: 'Now more than ever, we must remember that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone. Together, united behind Labour’s policies to rebuild and transform Britain, we can deliver for the many, not the few.' 

What would the 'Votes at 16' campaign change about Brexit? 

The age of 18 is widely recognised as the beginning of a person’s adulthood, but for those who are one or two years younger, things are very different. Although they are given more freedoms in some areas, there are many restrictions on things they can legally do. For example, a parents’ permission may be needed if they want to join the armed forces. Notably, sixteen and seventeen year-olds cannot currently vote. 

Going back to not long after the General Election in 2017, Labour published a video to distribute to its campaign giving 16-year-olds across the UK the right to vote. In this video, Mr Corbyn said: "At 16, you can pay tax, even get married and join the army. Yet young people are denied the right to vote and have their say on decisions that affect them." He concluded: 

“That’s why the Labour Party will be supporting a Bill in the House of Commons, brought by our MP Jim McMahon, to reduce the voting age to 16.” 

However, some argue that if this proposal goes ahead, it may have ramifications for the integrity of the EU referendum results, as almost three quarters of voters aged 18 to 24 voted Remain

According to statistics from the BBC, turnout at the Referendum was very high at 72%, with over 30 million people voting in the UK. That means that more people turned out to vote than in last year’s general election. In addition, according to a survey by Lord Ashcroft, younger voters were much more likely to vote Remain than older voters. 

Following the precedent set by the Scottish referendum in 2017, it is arguable that people at 16 should be given the rights to vote in England and Wales as well. The issue has become more urgent given Brexit, which young people ought to have a say in. It seems like that Labour is the party that are willing to provide this opportunity to young people.

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Image: Andy Miah @Flickr