First Published in The Social Review:
What is Labour’s “British Model” Brexit?
Looking at the Conservative alternatives, we need one fast.
In response to Jo Johnson’s resignation from the government, Jeremy Corbyn was asked whether he supported Johnson’s call for a second referendum on Brexit. After stating that he didn’t think he could, the Labour leader re-emphasised his belief that the Britain had to move on from the referendum result. “The issue now has to be how we bring people together, bring people together around the principles of our economy, our rights and that we don’t turn this country into some kind of offshore tax haven on the lines that Donald Trump might want us to”.
With less than six months to go before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union, Corbyn’s statement is alarming not because he ruled out a second referendum, but because we still don’t really know what Labour’s model for Brexit would be. The problem is, with May’s deal a bust and Corbyn’s an illusion, the next most likely option appears to be the one Corbyn seeks to fight and Johnson dismissed: the Brexiteer vision of a low-tax, pro-business, Singapore-style economy on ‘the edge’ of Europe.
The “Singapore model” is tantalising to Brexiteers, because on the surface it vindicates Conservative free-market creed. Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, was far from alone when he stated in November 2017 that the post-Brexit model should “exactly be Singapore, a tiny country devoid of natural resources but with a booming economy and an average life expectancy of 85…low-tax, low-spend, low-regulation.” At the start of this year, JP Floru, who stood for the Tories in Bermondsey and Old Southwark in 2015, wrote for Conservative Home that by adopting a Singapore model, Britain could “undercut the world”.