Emily Thornberry: Britain and EU can still strike trade deals together after Brexit
Britain should still be able to strike trade deals alongside the European Union even after Brexit, Emily Thornberry has said.
In a major shift in Labour policy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary suggested she was willing for the UK to give up its ability to reach trade deals with other nations when it leaves the EU.
Instead, Britain would agree a "partnership" with the EU which would allow the country to negotiate agreements with nations like China.
The move - which comes ahead of a major Brexit speech by Jeremy Corbyn next Monday - will enrage many Leave supporters, who say leaving the EU customs union will allow Britain to strike its own trade deals with other countries.
Speaking on LBC, Ms Thornberry said: "I would say that we would take advantage of being in a partnership with the European Union in order to be able to, for example, negotiate with China, and China wouldn't just be negotiating with Britain, it would be Britain and the European Union.
"The European Union would have the advantage of not only negotiating on their behalf, but they would have the additional clout of being able to work in partnership with us.
"We would have to be involved in making sure that those rules were in accordance with British interests."
Her comments came just hours after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell admitted that Labour's Brexit policy was "evolving".
At an event in London, he said: "We’re not supporting membership of ‘the’ customs union, but we are looking at ‘a’ customs union. The reason we’re saying ‘a’ customs union is because we don’t want the same asymmetric relationship that Turkey have got.
"What we would want is to negotiate around our ability to influence the trade negotiations that would take place on behalf of us all - both ourselves and European countries - in terms of trade via a customs union. That would be the discussion we would want to open up."
Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce a shift in Labour's Brexit position in next week's speech.
On Tuesday, he signalled a possible change of tack by saying non-EU countries could not “automatically” join the single market - suggesting they can if they wish.
He also confirmed that Labour wants to join some form of customs union with the EU.
And Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith said Labour's Brexit policy is "deepening and evolving", in a further sign that the party is ready to change tack.