On Monday, Parliament will return from recess and debate the Taxation (Cross-Border trade) Bill. This sets the ground to pull the UK out of the existing Customs Union.
Labour’s leadership has published a typically vague amendment against taking the Bill to a second reading and does not tackle the Conservatives’ pursuit of a hard Brexit.
By contrast, the Liberal Democrat amendment has specifically called for the Bill’s progress to be halted because it is based on the “flawed commitment” to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Labour’s leaders have constantly fudged their position on Brexit, but they have run out of time.
This is the crunch year for Brexit. They can no longer ignore their responsibility as the official opposition and allow the Conservatives to pursue an economically damaging hard Brexit.
Labour’s leadership must over-rule Barry Gardiner, whose views on Brexit chime almost perfectly with his opposite number, the arch-Brexiteer Liam Fox.
They must ditch their largely meaningless amendment, which blatantly fudges whether the UK should stay in the Customs Union, and back our amendment instead.
If they don’t back us, this will be yet more evidence that Gardiner’s hard Brexit views are shared by his Shadow Cabinet colleagues.
Moreover, it is questionable whether Brexiteer idealogues realise the implications of this bill.
Do the hard-liners understand the concept of rules of origin, the impact of a new customs checking system on suppliers or how badly hit British firms will be hit by having to pay VAT upfront on good imported from the EU?
This is a dangerous bill. It needs to be stopped.