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May and Corbyn colluding over Brexit

June 6, 2017 9:20 AM

There has been a pact of silence on Brexit between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. It is one of the most cynical acts of political collusion between the two larger parties in a generation. Strip away the contrast in tone and the differences in language and a striking reality emerges: both the Conservative and Labour positions on Brexit are now more or less identical. Pull Britain out of the Customs Union and the Single Market. Abruptly bring an end to freedom of movement. Deny the people any chance to decide on the final deal. They are in total agreement.

With average earnings growth failing to keep up with prices, consumers are already beginning to feel the Brexit squeeze. Price rises have hit energy bills, petrol, and clothes. It's enough to make anyone need a fortifying glass of wine - but last week it was reported that the average price of a bottle of wine has hit its highest price ever.

No deal would, according to the Treasury, mean a loss of £45bn a year. To put this in perspective, £45bn is more money than the entire schools budget for England. To plug a gap like that in the public finances you would either need to raise the basic rate of income tax by 10 pence in the pound, or to make cuts to public services and the salaries of those who work for them on an unimaginable scale. This is what Theresa May means when she casually threatens to walk away from the negotiating table. No deal isn't a cuddly alternative to a poor deal. It's far worse. It's a disaster for Britain."

The Treasury figures are an indictment of the central objective of Theresa May's negotiating strategy - to walk away from Margaret Thatcher's Single Market. This decision alone carries a long-term price tag of £16bn a year. For that money, you could give every hospital in the UK a £12m cash injection, or provide the average school with an extra half a million pounds.