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General Election 2017: Labour’s ‘day one’ pledge to EU nationals

Labour says it would scrap Theresa May’s Brexit plans and unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU residents before talks start, if they win power.

While accepting the UK was leaving, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour wanted a different deal prioritising jobs and work rights.

It would also seek an early deal on transitional arrangements to smooth the way for the UK’s departure in 2019.

The Conservatives said only they had a clear plan for exiting the EU.

Ahead of a campaign visit to Wales on Tuesday, Theresa May said the Brexit vote should have been a “wake-up call for a generation of politicians who have taken the people for granted for too long”, but instead other parties had “closed ranks”.

The Conservatives are hoping to take seats from Labour on 8 June in areas which voted to leave the EU, including the Midlands, the north-east and north-west of England and across Wales.

Most Labour MPs backed Remain vote in last year’s referendum.

‘No rolling back’

Labour has been criticised by, among others, former prime minister Tony Blair, for a perceived lack of clarity in its approach to Brexit.

Unlike the Lib Dems, it has ruled out offering a second referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal, but suggested Parliament could stop a so-called “hard Brexit”.

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In Labour’s first major policy statement of the election campaign, the party is signalling it would take a different approach to the two-year process of negotiating the EU’s exit – expected to start in earnest in June.

It says it would:

  • Scrap Mrs May’s Brexit plan – outlined in a White Paper in February – which envisages leaving the single market and customs union
  • Focus on a deal that “retains the benefits” of both organisations
  • Guarantee the legal status of the three million EU nationals living in the UK on its first day in office
  • Press for a reciprocal guarantee for the 1.2 million Britons living on the continent
  • Replace the government’s proposed Great Repeal Bill – which would scrap the 1972 European Communities Act and transpose myriad existing EU laws applying to the UK into domestic law – with an EU Rights and Protections Bill

Labour also insists there can be no “rolling back” of workplace protections, environmental standards and consumer rights, and no measures to limit the lifespan of any EU-derived laws or directives, such as sunset clauses.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Keir criticised the prime minister’s “rigid” approach, and said offering an immediate, unilateral guarantee to EU nationals living in the UK would be “received as a very welcome message” by Brussels negotiators and help “reset the tone” of talks.

The PM has said she wants a reciprocal deal on expats’ rights to be struck at the earliest possible stage in the negotiations.

Media captionViews from Wakefield: “I’m not into Labour anymore”

He also said that while “unchanged” access to the EU single market access was “not a viable option”, the government should “leave the options on the table”.

And he insisted MPs should have the option to send the government back to the negotiating table if they are not happy with the outcome of the talks.

Labour has previously set out six tests for a successful Brexit – including maintaining a strong, collaborative relationship with the EU, protecting security co-operation, delivering for the whole of the UK and introducing a fair immigration system.

In response, the Conservatives said Jeremy Corbyn was a “weak leader of a divided party who could not get the right deal for the UK”.

“We have a clear plan for the Brexit negotiations, and every vote for Theresa May will strengthen her hand in those negotiations to get a good deal for the UK,” said MP and former minister Dominic Raab.

“Only Theresa May and the Conservatives can provide the strong and stable leadership the United Kingdom needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.”

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In a fresh intervention on Tuesday, Tony Blair said the Conservatives’ position on Brexit must be “turned against them”.

Writing in the Guardian, he warned Mr Corbyn “this is not the time to fight a conventional partisan election”.

Read more at BBC.co.uk

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