- REUTERS/Darren Staples
- Jeremy Corbyn announces Labour wants to be in a customs union with the European Union after Brexit.
- However, confusion surrounds key areas of the Labour leader’s proposal.
- It is unclear whether Corbyn would accept a customs union in which Britain would have no meaningful say in EU trade deals negotiated on its behalf.
- “We haven’t got that far,” a spokesperson for Corbyn told Business Insider.
COVENTRY, WEST MIDLANDS – Jeremy Corbyn’s new Brexit policy was shrouded in confusion on Monday after the Labour leader failed to clarify key details of the customs union relationship he wants Britain to have with the European Union.
Speaking in Coventry on Monday morning, Corbyn announced that a Labour government would seek to negotiate “a comprehensive UK-EU customs union” in order to protect jobs and the invisible Irish border.
The Labour leader said he wants a customs union with the EU which will give Britain “a say in future trade deals” negotiated by the EU on its behalf, all but ruling out Britain having its own independent trade policy.
Corbyn insisted that a customs union with the EU after Brexit would only be acceptable if Britain would have an “influence” on the trade deals negotiated on its behalf.
“A new customs arrangement would depend on Britain being able to negotiate agreement of new trade deals in our national interest,” Corbyn said, speaking at the National Transport Design Centre.
“Labour would not countenance a deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others. That would mean ending up as mere rule-takers.”
However, Corbyn failed to clarify whether this meant he’d accept a customs union arrangement in which Britain would not have the power to veto free trade deals negotiated on his behalf.
He told Channel 4: “What we want to achieve and what we will achieve is our right to be able to negotiate and consult at the same time in the European Union on the sort of trade agreements we make.
“And also to influence them on the sort of trade deals made in the rest of the world.”
The Labour leader’s team was also unable to confirm what his “plan B” would be if the EU rejected his demand to have a meaningful say on free trade deals negotiated by Brussels.
“We haven’t got that far yet,” his spokesperson told Business Insider.
Corbyn’s call to maintain a customs union arrangement with the EU after Brexit was welcomed by his MPs and across the business community, in spite of the confusion over some of the details.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said Labour’s policy announcement seeks to “put jobs and living standards first” in negotiations with Brussels.
“Growing trade is not an ‘either or’ question – Germany already exports five times as much with China as the UK from within the customs union,” Fairbairn added.
“Many thousands of ambitious UK firms are looking to break into new markets. These companies need Government to focus on making access to markets simpler, not putting up barriers to our most important trading partner.
“Importantly, a customs union will go part of the way to providing a real-world solution to the Irish border question that is of such urgent concern to the people and firms of Northern Ireland.
“This evidence cannot be ignored. To do so would create barriers where there are none, risking prosperity and future living standard.”