Jeremy Corbyn has launched Labour’s new ‘Build it in Britain’ campaign which seeks to ensure a stronger future for industry and support better jobs and opportunities.
Speaking today (24 July) at EEF’s Technology Hub in Birmingham, the Labour leader extolled the virtues of a “real Industrial Strategy”, one that would transform the shape of our economy, see the UK better compete on the international stage, and see prosperity shared by “every region and nation of the UK”.
He also highlighted the need for investment – which he described as being vital if the UK was “to succeed in the future”.
Commenting on the government’s recent release of its Brexit white paper, Corbyn noted that Theresa May’s “long-awaited Brexit white paper was in shreds within a week” thanks to the efforts of hard-right Conservatives, a situation that pushes the nation ever close towards “a disastrous ‘No Deal’ Brexit”, he continued.
Lack of support for industry
According to the Labour leader, for too long “we’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector.”
He continued: “A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of our workers and any hope of secure well-paid jobs from a generation of our young people.”
The state currently spends more than £200bn a year in the private sector, a tremendous “lever” that could help support our domestic industry by encouraging businesses to invest in “cutting-edge investment, high-quality service and doing right by communities.”
However, government’s focus has all too-often focused on overseeing the decline of industry rather, than its growth. Corbyn offered a handful of examples:
- Three new Fleet Solid Support Ships for the Royal Navy
“Why is the government spending a £1bn contract and all the skilled jobs tax revenues and work in the supply chain to build these three ships overseas when we have the shipyards to build them here?”
- Transport infrastructure and assets
“We have plenty of capacity to build train carriages in the UK and yet repeatedly over recent years, these contracts have been farmed out abroad and costing our economy crucial investment, jobs for workers and tax revenues.”
- Defence contracts
“In that same period, the Ministry of Defence awarded contracts elsewhere worth over £1.5bn even though we are under no obligation under either European or international law to open up defence contracts to overseas bidders.”
- The steel crisis
“When the steel crisis hit in 2016, Italy, Germany and France all intervened legally under existing state aid rules, but our government sat back and did nothing.”
Labour’s three-pronged approach
In an effort to see the government use more of its money to ‘buy British’ and better support workers, Corbyn outlined Labour’s three-pronged strategy:
- Changing how we buy things with new procurement rules so that the huge weight of the government’s purchasing power better supports workers and industries.
- Investing in infrastructure to support British companies to keep goods flowing efficiently and lower costs.
- Increasing investment in education, skills and lifelong learning through a Labour-created ‘National Education Service’ – which will provide “both academic and vocational education on an equal footing to anybody that wants it, from cradle to grave.”
Full, tariff-free access to Europe
Unsurprisingly, Corbyn was less than complimentary about the current government’s progress – and general stance – regarding the UK’s exiting from the European Union.
Highlighting the need to secure full, tariff-free access to Europe, he noted: “It’s so important that we seek to negotiate a new, comprehensive UK-EU customs union, with a British say in all future trade deals and arrangements.
“BMW, Airbus and companies after company have warned of the real and damaging effects of Conservative customs chaos. Theresa May and her warring cabinet should think again, even at this late stage, and reconsider the option of renegotiating a brand-new customs union.”