If Theresa May looks to China for post Brexit guidance, Corbyn should keep his eye on Europe

Our European neighbours have more in common with us socially and economically than China, and if we are to succeed alone, there is still much we can learn from them.

Recently, Theresa May has grovelled to China, trying to secure deals and forge relationships that will stabilise the UK’s economy before our ties with Europe our finally cut.

However just across the channel our European neighbours are excelling us. Many have greater productivity, a more stable job market, higher investment rates, lower inequality levels, stronger welfare states and a longer average life expectancy. Ironically, if Britain is to succeed alone, we must look to our old European brothers and sisters to guide us, economically and socially.

Our continental partners have economies that we can draw from more easily than China, which produces on a level we cannot compete with. However it is the European economies that both the free market soft Brexiters and the hard Brexiters want us to leave. We must demand an alternative that parallels a European outlook before we kneel too low to China, a country whose economic and social regime is miles away from our own.

While the country voted to leave the bureaucracy of the European Union, we have not deliberated on the values and outlook we want the UK to go ahead with.

Although Corbyn profligates socialist populism, The Labour Party has the opportunity to put forward a European Socially Democrat form of capitalism that the country could easily adopt and benefit from.

Indeed, Corbyn’s aims do not align with the socialist populism of Latin America. Labour’s current economic pitch is not a radical one when seen in isolation from the warped political landscape of the UK that has sloped further right year on year.

We have lived through austerity for almost a generation. An open-ended scheme of Osbornomics has warped the economic debate so that Labour is greeted with harsh skepticism when it proposes orthodox, left-wing economic strategies. Labour’s blue print for public investment make it the pro-growth party, where infrastructure and housing would surge under a Labour government.

However Corbyn does not have confidence in his own policies. This is down to the warped British political landscape and the sarcastic, harsh media backlash Corbyn has faced. Confidence can be gained by looking to parallel policies in Europe that have succeeded.

Labour’s economic mission is normal and achievable when looked at through a European lens. Like northwest Europe, Britain can have Labour’s economic vision though long-term planning in industry and finance twinned with the business sector working hand in hand with the government to achieve a purposeful, consistent and bold economic goal as well as ambitious education policies.

Labour needs more self-confidence when it draws out plans for borrowing to invest, which will pay for itself in increased tax returns and eventually a reduced proportion of debt as a share of GDP.

Furthermore, if the Labour Party can put education and working life skills at the centre of its post Brexit policy, it can make sure Britain keeps up with the new lifelong learning trend while keeping employer involvement and creating new obligations to up-skill existing workers. This will help with the looming threat to our Welfare State; the shrinking middle of workers, as people work for less time and live longer than they have historically.

If Labour succeeds in a realistic working life skills program, then they pose a dangerous threat to the Tories. When the Tories consider industrial strategy, they focus on advancing skills in already high achieving companies, leaving the majority of firms to the way side in terms of skills improvement.

Labour’s economic mission must improve productivity in every sector and community. This will involve hands-on support for companies and public led coordination for supply chains and local economies. It also requires bold and confident Labour leadership in all sectors.

New workers rights and involvement, a higher minimum wage, a stronger union voice and an offer on workplace skills are essential for this equal and sustainable economic growth. There must also be a return to European labour market standards, which will force struggling businesses to review their practices and invest in their employees. These are not just social policies meant to create redistribution and justice; they are economic policies that have been proven over many counties to create growth. In China, however, these equalising policies for growth are hard to find.

Jeremy Corbyn must realise that there is nothing radical about readjusting a mixed economy so that the public sector plays a larger role. Once he has done this he must emphasise how achievable Labour’s policies are and draw upon successful European examples.

After Brexit, the Tories are not the UK’s pro-business party, no matter how much time May spends with the business leaders of China. The left must prove that a progressive European alternates is good for our economy and good for society.


Jane Prinsley is a Young Fabian member

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