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Tuesday 5 July 

Leave.EU speculates on the motivations behind the Shadow Brexit Secretary’s co-written letter in favour of staying within the ECJ. 

Still revelling in their non-existent victory at the general election, the mood in the Labour party remains buoyant as it pivots towards a much softer Brexit than the one promised during the campaign.

The latest ploy designed to bring paranoid Europhile Tory MPs onside, following Chuka Umunna’s single market motion last week, has come courtesy of Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and his colleague in opposition Jonathon Ashworth. This time, it’s the Tories’ uncompromising position on the European Court of Justice in their sites.

“We reject the ideological and deeply unhelpful red line the prime minister has drawn that would prevent any future involvement of an EU-U.K. court-like body (over-regulation), even when such an arrangement is demonstrably in the national interest,” the two MPS have written in a letter published in the Financial Times today.

While the Tories have rightly ruled out continued subservience to the ECJ, a UK-EU system of shared arbitration remains on the table, a distinction Starmer and Ashworth decline to explore. The letter was written on the pretext of calling “for a more flexible approach that would make it far easier for Britain to stay inside common EU arrangements that benefit the U.K.”

All well and good if Starmer and Ashworth truly believe Britain will be more prosperous under the EU’s heavy yoke of legislation, supported by expensive regulatory agencies and the ECJ. But if that was the case, surely a better time to make their pitch would be in approximately six months’ time when we will be approaching the business end of the negotiations, literally: how to keep a high level of access without transfers of sovereignty, including border controls.

The stage we are at however is the nitty-gritty of residency rights for Britons living in the EU and their counterparts dwelling across the Channel. At the beginning of last week, the Prime Minister laid out in full her generous offer of full residency rights to EU citizens living in Britain. The stumbling block for the EU is Theresa May’s refusal to award the ECJ guardianship over these rights. Clearly, the Labour frontbenchers are trying to soften the Government’s position at home, and thanks to the weakness of this minority administration, at the negotiating table too.

If the EU had not been allowed to expand in all directions thanks to the dubious concept of EU Citizenship and the extension of home affairs powers, it would have been much like any other international commercial court, resolving disputes between investors and sanctioning Member States straying away from the rules.

Starmer, a barrister, and his allies are clearly eager to keep Britain inside a key component of the EU’s gigantic structure, and therefore independent in name only, without losing their heads. Jeremy Corbyn promptly sacked those shadow cabinet members who voted in favour of last week’s motion. As Brexit Secretary, Starmer’s wiggle room to advance an EU-friendly agenda is restricted by his leader’s hatred of the European Union’s pro-market orientation, which is matched only by his growing unscrupulousness. All the better for the Brexit cause, so long as Starmer’s agenda does not gather momentum.

As a court protecting citizens’ rights rather than an instrument of capitalism the ECJ, in appearance at least, is suitably benign for Sir Keir to lash the Labour Party’s Brexit policy to without retribution from the party leader. Whether such a position is logical or not, is an afterthought. As far as Starmer and Ashworth are concerned, the more tightly tethered Britain is to the EU Empire, the better.