Jeremy Corbyn upbraids Barry Gardiner for contradicting Labour customs union position

The Labour leader and the Shadow International Trade Secretary have set out completely different positions over the customs union

Tom Peck
Tuesday 25 July 2017 15:05 BST
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The Labour leader's spokesperson said remaining in the customs union was still 'on the table'
The Labour leader's spokesperson said remaining in the customs union was still 'on the table' (Reuters)

Jeremy Corbyn has disagreed with his own Shadow International Trade Secretary, and said that the Labour party would keep membership of the customs union after Brexit "on the table."

Mr Gardiner had said in a newspaper article and repeated his comments in various television interviews, that remaining in the customs union after leaving th EU would render Britain a "vassal state" as it would be subject to rules it had no power to set or amend.

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn said it was wrong to "sweep options off the table."

But Mr Corbyn has already ruled out continued membership of the single market. He said at the weekend that leaving the single market and leaving the EU were "inextricably linked", even though Liechtenstein and Norway remain a member of the single market but not the EU.

On Sunday night Mr Gardiner said remainining in the customs union would create an “asymmetrical relationship” between the UK and any nations the EU went on to strike trade agreements with, as the UK's interests in those deals would not be considered.

“The EU could do a deal with another country, let’s say America, which we would be bound by in the UK,” he explained.

“We would have to accept the liberalisation of our markets, we would have to accept their goods coming into our markets on the terms agreed by Europe, which could be prejudicial to us.

“But we would not have the same access into America’s markets. We would be bound to try to negotiate it but why would America give us that access when it’s got all the liberalisation of our markets that it wants? It’s a disaster.”

But a spokesperson for Mr Corbyn said on Tuesday that the party had not ruled out continuing its membership of the customs union.

"We need to be flexible in our approach and not sweep options off the table," the spokesperson said.

"As we spelled out in our election manifesto, Labour believes that the Brexit negotiations should put jobs and the economy first, with the priority of tariff-free access to the European single market.

"We want to see a new partnership with the EU that maintains the benefits of both the single market and the customs union."

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