Co-operative Party Conference 2018, Bristol. (c) Natasha Hirst Photography

Party Chair Gareth Thomas MP responds to today's news of a draft withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union

Responding to today’s news of a draft withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, Co-operative Party Chair Gareth Thomas said:

“Decisions made in the next few days will have implications for all of us, for years to come. It can’t be right that such decisions are made behind closed doors by a handful of people, with little scrutiny.

The Co-operative Party believes that we all deserve a say in the decisions that shape our lives. This is one of the biggest in our lifetimes. That’s why it’s time to give the British people the final say, via a people’s vote on the deal the Prime Minister has proposed. If you agree, why not join us to help make the argument.”

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Notes for editors

  • At the Co-operative Party’s Annual Conference on 13th October, members voted to approve the following statements of policy on Britain’s relationship with the European Union:
    1. As a proudly internationalist party that believes peace and prosperity for all are best achieved via co-operation, the Co-operative Party advocated staying in the European Union during the referendum in 2016. As we go forward, it continues to be in the UK’s best interests to have the closest possible relationship with our European neighbours and the institutions of the EU in order to minimise the negative impacts on communities, the economy and our role in the world.
    2. The Government’s assertion that no deal is better than a bad deal is dangerous and irresponsible. The Government should seek the best possible exit deal, and future relationship, for the UK and if no agreement is reached by 29th March 2019 then an extension to the Article 50 deadline should be sought to prevent the damaging consequences of crashing out of the EU with no transitional arrangements in place.
    3. The Government has mishandled the Brexit negotiations from the beginning. The Prime Minister has spent more time negotiating within her own Party than with the EU. The Government has sought to sideline Parliament, which is unacceptable. It is right that Parliament will have a meaningful vote on the terms of any agreement that is reached. If the Government’s proposal does not command the support of the House, a General Election should be called to enable a new Government to take up the reins of the negotiations.
    4. The free movement of people, goods, capital and services provides huge benefits to our economy, society and communities. These benefits should be maintained in any Brexit agreement through continued UK membership of, and access to, the Single Market through the European Economic Area Agreement.
    5. Leaving the Customs Union would be detrimental to the UK – with consumers facing higher prices and less choice, producers facing new barriers to export their goods, supply chains for British manufacturing severely disrupted, the UK’s trading clout with the rest of the world diminished, and the Good Friday Agreement put at risk. The UK should seek a customs partnership which ensures no hard border in Ireland, continued access to the European market and frictionless trade.
    6. The terms of any Brexit deal were not known at the time of the referendum in 2016. Once the negotiations are concluded, there should be a public vote on whether or not we should leave the EU on the terms proposed.