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What Jeremy Corbyn should say to Michel Barnier

Keeping the UK in the single market is worth fighting for. 

Jeremy Corbyn travels to Brussels today to meet Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator. What he says in the meeting really matters. 

It is incumbent on Corbyn as the leader of the opposition to do exactly what it says on the tin and take a very different approach to Theresa May. His "jobs first Brexit" is the starting point, but he must go much further. 

First, he must speak for the young Remainers that made up the Corbyn surge last month. They want him to put forward the views of the 48 per cent, and at least leave on the table the chance that their friends and neighbours who made up the 52 per cent might change their mind when May comes back with an unworkable solution of her own. It is their future he is negotiating, and he must not let them down. 

Second, Corbyn must tell Barnier that Labour will do all we can in parliament to keep the UK in the single market. With a hung parliament, the Labour frontbench could play a decisive role in whether the UK remains a member of the single market or not. Tariff free access is not enough. Labour’s manifesto promised to "scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit white paper" in favour of "fresh negotiating priorities … on retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union". Membership of the single market is the best way to do that. It is the only way to guarantee jobs, help manufacturing and grow the economy. A huge proportion of Unite the union's membership, for example, is reliant on this, and customs union membership helps their manufacturing members even more. 

Crucially, Corbyn should ignore those who say being in the single market but out of the EU demotes the United Kingdom to being "rule takers". This is not necessarily true. We will continue to trade with the post-Brexit single market; we will not simply be ignored. We might have to use our soft power better, convince rather than cajole and build alliances for reform – but we are not Norway. 

Third, he should get across the fact that his "end freedom of movement" is not about junking one of the fundamental freedoms, but simply getting the control of our borders that people voted for. This could include a number of things you can do within the framework of the single market.

One, bring back exit checks – these were abolished by Michael Howard in 1995 and could be reinstated, for a fee, pretty easily. We were in the single market when we first had them and could have them again. We would them know who is in the country at any one time, which gives voters confidence, andhelps to better plan the provision of public services.

Two, bring in identity cards – not just for migrants, but everyone – and make them key to accessing public services and benefits so people have confidence that the system is not being rigged or gamed.

Three, remove those who have been here three months but have not found work. Belgium is very good at this and is literally at the heart of the single market. 

Britain's future feels uncertain, so too does the government's. They are weak and fragile. Corbyn must show Europe he is the leader of the alternative. In this one meeting he could genuinely keep all options on the table.


Richard Angell is director of Progress.

Photo: Getty
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Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub

This is not about mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as  “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.)  With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

Society is still bound by taboos: our hyper-sexual society glossy magazines like Teen Vogue offer girls tips on receiving anal sex, while advice on pleasuring women is notably rare. As an unabashed wanker, I find it baffling that in the year that largely female audiences queued to watch Fifty Shades Darker, a survey revealed that 20 per cent of U.S. women have never masturbated. It is an odd truth that in our apparently open society, any criticism of pornography or sexual practices is shut down as illiberal. 

Guardian-reading men who wring their hands about Fair Trade coffee will passionately defend the right to view women being abused on film. Conservative men who make claims about morals and marriage are aroused by images that in any other setting would be considered abuse. Pornography is not only misogynistic, but the tropes and language are often also racist. In what other context would racist slurs and scenarios be acceptable?

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.  

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?