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Tackling the growing inequality in Britain must be at the heart of everything Labour does and says. Not only is inequality at the root of many of our modern social problems, it is also a barrier to growth for our economy.

Failure to tackle inequality will mean we are consigning millions of families to perpetual poverty as well as making the country weaker and poorer in the long run. A fairer more equal society is a more civil and safer society. 

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The Conservatives have shown over the past six years you can’t cut your way to prosperity. You have to build a better future through investment in infrastructure and skills. That’s why I am an enthusiastic supporter of Labour’s ten year plan for investing £500 billion pounds. Of course, we need to explain how it will be done and that it makes good financial sense – which it does.

If you doubt that, look at the recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which showed that the costs of poverty are enormous.

It shows that poverty means massive costs for the Treasury, in terms of reduced revenues and increased benefits. It puts the total annual cost of poverty in the UK at around £78 billion.

One of the first things Theresa May did as Prime Minister was commission a race audit of public services to examine the unequal treatment that people from diverse communities face. This is long overdue and it gave the impression that she got the message on race equality. But sadly she has not followed through with policies to match.

Despite their warm words, the Tories continue to make people from diverse communities worse off. Research by the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust showed that poor black and Asian women will lose more money than any other group as a result of the government’s austerity.

The analysis examined government policy from 2010 up to 2020 and showed that individuals from the poorest households lose most from the government’s tax and benefit changes. Low income African Caribbean and Asian women will shockingly lose around twice as much money as low income white men.

This is a damning indictment of the government. We have always know that women from diverse communities suffer the most from cuts but this report shows the shocking extent of their suffering. We need a better plan.

Labour’s message is that fairness and efficiency go hand in hand. Inequality is the enemy of innovation and economic advance.

As we have seen over the past six years, so many of the Tory cuts are false economies which store up trouble for the future. The most obvious example we have at the moment is the way cuts in council budgets have weakened the whole system of social care. And that adds to the crisis in the National Health Service.

Another Tory cut which is deeply worrying is the slashing of the budget for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the body responsible for the promotion and enforcement and UK equality and non-discrimination laws.

It is on the brink of collapse following severe budget cuts, according to an analysis done for me by the House of Commons Library.  It shows that the EHRC’s budget has been cut by 70 per cent since 2010. And there’s no letup in sight. Further budget cuts are in the pipeline. Earlier this year, the government revealed plans to cut the EHRC budget with the loss of up to 30 staff.

At a time when inequality and disadvantage are increasing we need the EHRC more than ever. But the savage cuts mean it is facing collapse. They will turn the clock back on equality and erode a decade of progress. These cuts are a worrying trend by this government in undermining equality legislation that makes our country fairer.

The sheer enormity of these cuts will destroy the regulator responsible for enforcing equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation or transgender status. With the increase in tribunal fees and the abolition of Equality Impact Assessments there seems to be no checks and balances when it comes to policy and budgets.

It all makes nonsense of the Prime Minister’s promises about making Britain a better place for working people. Two-Faced Theresa May talks the talk. She doesn’t walk the walk.

Only a united Labour Party can offer the country the fair and prosperous future our people deserve.

Dawn Butler MP is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities

Equality is under attack in post-Brexit Britain

Tackling the growing inequality in Britain must be at the heart of everything Labour does and says. Not only is inequality at the root of many of our modern social...

The referendum result was close but clear: Britain is set to leave the European Union. 

The Prime Minister has announced her intention to trigger Article 50 to start the negotiations over Brexit by the end of March 2017. Now the government must set out a clear plan for what happens next and tell the British people what terms they are seeking so we get the best result for Britain.

First and foremost, the TUC’s job is to stand up for working people whichever way they voted in the referendum. That’s why we are calling for a new deal for working people to be put at the heart of the government’s Brexit negotiation strategy. Most people agree that the balance of power in our country has swung too far against ordinary people. They see it in pay packets that are too small, too many jobs that are lousy and rights at work that simply haven’t kept pace with changes in the real world of work, and which Employment Tribunal fees make too expensive to enforce.

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Nobody has a crystal ball to predict the outcome of negotiations and what the new relationship between Britain and the EU will be. The TUC understands that, by definition, any negotiation involves trade-offs and compromise, even while recognising fundamental principles. But we do know what a fair trade deal would look like. A good deal for British workers – and for working people across the rest of Europe - would deliver more skilled jobs, protect rights and strengthen people’s voice at work. In contrast, bad trade deals destroy jobs, weaken working people’s rights and put public services at risk of privatisation.

Nor does anyone expect a running commentary on negotiations. But the British people do have a right to know what kind of deal the government is seeking and the government should expect to be held to account. That’s why the TUC has consistently argued for transparency in trade deals and the negotiations with the EU are no exception. We want the government to give the nations, city mayors and unions, as well as business, seats at the Brexit negotiating table.

At this stage the Government must set out its guiding principles for negotiation. The TUC believes that the Government should: 

-        promote good jobs by maintaining the EU as our largest trading partner, exporting our goods to the EU tariff-free and without cumbersome rules of origin requirements and other non-tariff barriers, as well as providing services in other EU countries without restrictions;

-        protect workers’ rights by enforcing the highest regulatory standards in Europe, especially when it comes to employment, but also consumer and environmental protections; and

-        manage migration better by guaranteeing local people opportunities for better jobs and apprenticeships, closer to home, especially in towns and communities hit hard by previous recessions; cracking down on bad employers who use migrants to undercut wages; strengthening union voice; and easing pressure on housing, schools, hospitals and other public services by using tax gains to better fund them.

These objectives would, we believe, secure good jobs at good wages for working people in manufacturing and services, including in the supply chains that export industries depend on. That would also provide the taxes to sustain good quality public services including a major expansion of house building,

The government can also act now to improve the ability of the British economy to deliver decent jobs and wages across the country. The TUC has long argued that Britain needs an industrial strategy that combines investment in infrastructure; a plan to develop workforce skills, and the employee engagement needed to ensure that these skills are used effectively at work; smart procurement policy to ensure we are maximising the potential to increase jobs at home, and a clear strategy to take advantage of the opportunities for new technology to help meet our climate commitments.

But without meeting the objectives above around our relationship with the EU, we believe that the nation’s economic health and development would be seriously undermined.

This would be a unique British model for a relationship with the rest of the European Union – specifically tailored to the needs of the British economy and British people. At present, the only way that the TUC can see we could achieve the objectives set out above would be through continued membership of the single market, which we should still be seeking to improve even from outside the EU – not just for our own direct benefit, but also so that the rest of the EU remains a rich and growing market where we can export our goods and services.

Frances O’Grady is the TUC’s General Secretary. This is an extract of the TUC pamphlet ‘Brexit: A New Deal for Working People’

Brexit: A New Deal for Working People

The referendum result was close but clear: Britain is set to leave the European Union.  The Prime Minister has announced her intention to trigger Article 50 to start the negotiations...

As we know, the referendum was all about "taking back control." And now Government ministers and right-wing newspapers seem to want to wrestle back control of the English language from sly "Remoaners."

"There is no such thing as a choice between soft Brexit and hard Brexit," Theresa May has informed us. "We don't recognise this distinction between hard Brexit and soft Brexit...We want the right Brexit," echoed the Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

For the Daily Mail, talk of hard Brexit is the "newspeak of Orwell."

And Michael Gove complains that the label is designed to create nasty associations in the mind of the public, associations with things like "learning hard lessons, facing a hard landing or doing hard labour."

This seems oddly defensive. Is the Brexit project really so fragile that some semantic framing from the defeated Remainers risks derailing it?

And in truth, there's plenty of spin on both sides, as the recent attempt by Brexiteers to talk up a "clean Brexit" demonstrate.

Yet let's meet the Brexiteers halfway. Let's forget labels and talk economic and institutional reality. Below are five different sorts of Brexit arrangements for the UK that could plausibly emerge by 2019.

 

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Brexit 1

The UK would leave the EU. We would have no members of the European Parliament, no seat on the European Council of leaders and no substantive role in setting the rules of the single market. Yet we could do all this and still remain in the single market and possibly also the EU customs union. This would mean paying an annual contribution into the EU budget.

The UK would also have to accept free movement of people, although it might be able to negotiate some restrictions on flows in times of "serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties" in the manner of Norway and Liechtenstein. Brexit 1 would keep disruption for UK firms trading with Europe to a minimum. 

Brexit 2

The UK leaves the EU and remains in the single market and customs union, as in Brexit 1, but only for a temporary period while a new long-term trade agreement is forged with the EU. The UK could also use this period to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world. As in Brexit 1, this would also be a course that would minimise disruption for British-based businesses.

This would also have the advantage of buying the UK precious time, since many trade experts are doubtful the two-year deadline for EU exit after Article 50 is triggered is long enough for Britain to negotiate a new deal with the rest of the EU and also the other countries with which the UK currently freely trades as part of the EU.

Incidentally, such a transition deal was recommended by Raoul Ruparel, the adviser to the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, when Ruparel was at the Open Europe think tank. 

Brexit 3

Britain leaves the EU and also the single market and the customs union but signs a comprehensive free trade deal with the rest of the European Union. This would be welcomed by goods exporters to Europe. Yet it would also entail costly customs checks. 

There would additionally have to be a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, with potentially serious political consequences. 

And if the deal did not cover services (as free trade generally do not), out services exporters to Europe - in particular our financial services firms - would be severely disadvantaged.

It is possible that a special services deal could be done with the rest of the EU, whereby the UK effectively replicates EU regulation under an "equivalence" regime - although this would obviously mean applying EU rules while having no input into their design.

Brexit 4

Leave the single market and customs union with no free trade deal in place and trade with Europe under World Trade Organisation rules. TWO rules mean that the EU would impose its Common External Tariff on UK exporters. 

Analysis by The Independent suggests that this would create an initial hit to UK exporters of at least £4.5bn - and in reality the damage would be many times that.

The UK could also impose tariffs on goods imports from Europe, provided these were no higher than those charge on on other countries' imports. This would bring in more tax revenue. But tariffs on imports would also push up import prices and domestic inflation.

Furthermore, if the UK failed to conclude free trade deals with the 52 other countries with which the UK currently trades freely as an EU member the same would follow: damaging tariffs on UK exports and imports.

Brexit 5

Leave the single market and customs union with no free trade deal – but unilaterally scrap all import tariffs. This would permit a flood of cheap food, cheap goods and cheap commodity imports into the UK. This would also push down prices in the shops. But it would have a catastrophic impact on our farmers and manufacturers and all those who work in those sectors.

It would be politically explosive since, by Government choice, the exports of our industries would be subject to tariffs abroad, but imports from foreign competitors would not be. Also, under this Brexit, the UK would not even seek to strike free trade deals, meaning there would be zero help for our services firms, which are the dominant part of our economy, in breaking into foreign markets and bypassing their non-tariff barriers

So how should we think about these Brexits? Brexit 1, to me, would be easily the most preferable, albeit much inferior to full EU membership. Brexit 2 would be preferable to Brexit 3. Brexit 4 would be an economic disaster. And Brexit 5 is simply a libertarian fantasy that will not happen because it is politically impossible.

Oxford Economics estimates that Brexit 1 and 2 would see the British economy smaller by 2030 relative to otherwise by between 0.1 and 1.8 per cent. It estimates that Brexit 3 would diminish output by between 0.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent by that date, and Brexit 4 by between 1.5 per cent and 3.9 per cent.

The Economists for Brexit group claim Brexit 5 would deliver a UK growth boom by 2020. But economists at the London School of Economics say this is ideologically driven pseudoscience and that unilateral free trade would, in fact, reduce UK GDP by between 6.3 per cent and 9.5 per cent by 2030, equivalent to between £4,200 and £6,300 per household.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. The reverse is true too.

Call the various Brexit settlement scenarios what you want – but the reality is that some will inflict much greater harm on British households and businesses than others.

Ben Chu is The Independent’s Economics Editor. This article is reprinted from The Independent

Britain, these are the five realistic choices for Brexit - take your pick

As we know, the referendum was all about "taking back control." And now Government ministers and right-wing newspapers seem to want to wrestle back control of the English language from...

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