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Tue, 31 March 2020

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Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'betraying' Labour voters as he sets out customs union plan

Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'betraying' Labour voters as he sets out customs union plan

John Ashmore

3 min read

The Conservatives have accused Jeremy Corbyn of "betraying" millions of Labour voters by setting out plans for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. 

At a major speech in Coventry this morning the Labour leader said he wanted "a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union" with tariff-free trade and no hard border on the island of Ireland.

He said his party would also stipulate that the UK had "a say in future trade deals" carried out by the EU. 

Read the full text of Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit speech HERE.

Mr Corbyn's proposals immediately came under fire from Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who said Labour's policy would mean the UK being unable to negotiate its own trade deals in the future.

“This is a cynical attempt by Labour to try and frustrate the Brexit process and play politics with our country’s future - all the while, betraying millions of Labour voters," Dr Fox said.

“Labour’s confused policy would be bad for jobs and wages, it would leave us unable to sign up to comprehensive free trade deals, and it doesn’t respect the result of the referendum.

“This is another broken promise by Labour. Only the Conservatives are getting on with delivering what British people voted for, taking back control of our laws, borders and money.”

A Downing Street spokesman made clear there was no prospect of Theresa May signing up to a customs union.

“The Government will not be joining a customs union. We want to have the freedom to sign our own trade deals and to reach out into the world," he said.

Brexit Secretary David Davis also piled in, describing Mr Corbyn as "selling snake oil" with his Brexit plans.

However the Government has a battle ahead with pro-European Tory MPs, who are rallying behind an amendment to the Trade Bill that would mandate the Government form "a" customs union with the EU, albeit outside the formal structures of the existing customs union.

Conservative rebel Anna Soubry and Labour MP Chuka Umunna are leading a delegation of MPs to Paris today for discussions with French ministers on the UK's future trading relationship with the continent.


The Institute of Directors welcomed Mr Corbyn's speech but pressed him for more detail on his proposals.

“Labour has widened the debate today on the UK’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit, and many businesses, particularly manufacturers, will be pleased to hear the Opposition’s proposal to keep a customs union on the table," said director general Stephen Martin.

"As with everything about the Brexit process, however, extracting detailed and specific answers on the future trade arrangements from our political leaders has been a slow and laborious process. 

“There are no easy solutions here. A full customs union would make life simpler for goods exporters, but it is not clear whether Jeremy Corbyn is proposing that Brussels negotiate trade deals for the UK even after Brexit. It is hard to see how the EU could simply extend its trade agreements to a sizeable non-member state without a fundamental revision of its Treaties."