*These articles first appeared in the Daily Record on 12/06/18*

By Kezia Dugdale

NEARLY two years after the EU referendum, by the end of this week we will finally have a better idea about what Brexit is going to look like.

Is it going to look like the kind of Brexit that Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg want? A Brexit where we pull up the drawbridge and ban the workers our economy needs, sacrifice thousands of jobs here in the UK, roll back our rights in the workplace, and desperately try to cosy up to Donald Trump.

Or is it going to be a soft Brexit where we secure the least-worst option for our economy? A Brexit where we remain in the Single Market to protect 80,000 jobs in Scotland, welcome migrant workers, create the economic growth to allow us to end Tory austerity, and prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Theresa May knows how much trouble she is in – her supporters are trying to persuade rebels on the Tory benches to back the beleaguered Prime Minister. But we know there are enough of them – people like Kenneth Clarke – who are prepared to put country before party.

So the ball is in Labour’s court.

If we want to, this week we can derail plans for a hard Brexit and deliver the best deal for the country, short of remaining in the EU.
Sadly, as things stand, my own party risks letting Theresa May get away with her ruinous plan.

Today and tomorrow, there will be a series of votes in the Commons on the EU Withdrawal Bill. There will be a mixture of amendments put forward by the UK Government, along with 14 key amendments from the House of Lords, and some opposition amendments if they are selected by Speaker John Bercow.

The amendments from the Lords are potential game-changers. These have come about because peers voted to defeat the government, which means the areas of contention must come back to MPs for their say.

I’m optimistic that many will get accepted – one amendment calls for unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with relatives in the UK, for example.

There will also be a vote on the UK participating in the Customs Union, which abolishes all internal tariffs on goods and establishes a common external tariff on goods. Labour now supports remaining in a Customs Union, which was a welcome policy shift earlier this year.

But by failing to support remaining in the Single Market, our current stance means we care more about car parts or computer microchips travelling freely than we do about workers.

The Single Market allows for the free movement of goods, services, money and – crucially – people. You can be a member of the Single Market if you are part of the European Economic Area – an option that will be presented to MPs in one of the Lords amendments this week.

Labour must take every opportunity to defeat this Government and its cruel and careless hard Brexit. We cannot sit this fight out.

 

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Last week the Supreme Court told us something many of us already knew – that women in Northern Ireland are being denied their basic human rights.

When the law itself says that a woman could receive a higher sentence for having an abortion than the man who raped her, then something really is badly wrong. Reform of abortion laws in Northern Ireland is long overdue. It’s also a matter for Stormont, which is currently suspended.

Waiting for the Assembly to be back in action isn’t really good enough in my book though. Especially when women are boarding boats to access services in Scottish hospitals. The injustice of that is one thing, but the practicalities are another.

You see there’s a class issue at the heart of this. If a woman in Belfast needs to access abortion services, she needs the money to get here. What’s more, it’s a two-day procedure, so she’ll need a bed for the night. You’re talking several hundred pounds, and if you don’t have it, the thought of the alternatives don’t bear thinking about.

If women in the SNP are as angry as I am about all this, then they should lend their voice to the call for a grant scheme to help women cover the costs of travel for as long as they have to. The Tories introduced this in England, covering the cost if their income was less than £15,000 a year. Please Nicola, it’s a small gesture that could make such a big difference.

 

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Throwing your toys out and stamping your feet rarely leads to getting your own way, but it didn’t stop President Trump trying this week.

Barely a day goes by now without one of his Tweets triggering a major diplomatic incident. Fortunately, this week’s efforts were aimed at his fellow leaders in the G7 who have a slightly milder approach to the deployment of nuclear weapons than Trump’s previous foe, Kim Jong-un.

No, the weapon of choice for western leaders is trade tariffs and we appear to be on the cusp of a potential global trade war. And in true toddler fashion, Trump started it. His move to introduce 300 per cent tariffs on imported steel to the States has really soured the mood of the international community at a time when we should all be working together.

When Trump was first elected, most people assumed he’d be instantly isolated on the world stage and that he could essentially be ‘managed’ by all the other leaders working together. Eighteen months into his term, it’s clear that just like a toddler, he might not get it all his own way, but my God he’s got everyone’s attention.

 

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Apprenticeships are a great way into work, and can help people gain front-line and real-world experience.

I’m a big supporter of them, and that’s why I worked in a car garage one day last week to help promote the benefits to both employers and employees.
We also need to smash work-based gender stereotypes, and that’s one reason why I chose to work in a car garage.

The next time I get a flat tyre, I’ll know what to do.

 

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When you leave a tip, you expect it to go the staff who served you.

TGI Fridays has come under fire recently after it changed its rules so that front-of-house staff no longer get 100 per cent of tips.

I’m delighted that Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that a Labour government will make it illegal for employers to take a cut of the money.

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