“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.
Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:
- Continued access to the single market;
- No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
- Restricted immigration; and
- No more laws handed down from Europe.
But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.
That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.
Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs
This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.
The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:
- that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
- that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!
What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!
It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.
Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:
- secret deals behind closed doors
- no parliamentary scrutiny and
- no democratic control
This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.
They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:
- industry contact points,
- regulatory support
- market intelligence
- and translation services.
A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.
The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda
So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.
Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.
You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.
They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.
‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’
In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.
You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.
So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.
Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.
We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.
Power to the People!
The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.
We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.
A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.
We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.
True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.
Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.
Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.