Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit vision blasted as a 'betrayal' by MPs
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of missing an opportunity for ‘serious change’ after he set out plans to tie Britain to the EU through a new customs union.
The Labour leader said he wants an agreement that ensures tariff-free trade with the EU after Brexit – a move that puts him at odds with the Prime Minister, who says Britain must leave the customs union in order to sign free trade deals with countries around the world.
Tory Brexiteers have described Mr Corbyn’s position as a ‘complete betrayal’ of the Brexit vote, with Dudley South MP Mike Wood accusing him of ‘tearing up’ Labour pledges to respect the result of the EU referendum.
His announcement has been welcomed by Labour MPs in the Black Country including Pat McFadden, who described clarification of the party’s position on the customs union as ‘welcome and overdue’.
In a speech in the West Midlands Mr Corbyn said his call was ‘consistent’ with Labour’s position since the referendum, and an appeal to MPs of all parties to ‘put the people’s interests before ideological fantasies’ to protect jobs, living standards and the economy and avoid a hard Irish border.
He said: “Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union, as the Brexit Secretary David Davis promised in the House of Commons with no new impediments to trade and no new reduction in rights, standards and protections.
“We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal so Labour would seek to negotiate a new, comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need whatsoever for a hard border in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Corbyn insisted he would not countenance a deal that leaves Britain as a ‘passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’.
Labour would also demand the EU ensures the Government ‘has a say in future trade deals’ signed by the bloc, but appeared to admit the UK would not be able to sign its own agreements.
“We do not believe that deals with the US or China, would be likely to compensate for a significant loss of trade with our trading neighbours in the EU, and the Government’s own leaked assessments show that,” he said.
However, Mr Corbyn insisted that Britain must leave the single market so Labour can properly implement its plan for a government free from EU rules on state aid and competition.
Mr Wood said that Labour’s plan was ‘not what people in the Black Country had voted for’ and would mean Britain ‘passing up the chance’ of the ‘job creation and economic prosperity that Brexit can bring’.
“Jeremy Corbyn appears to be proposing a situation where we are tied to certain EU decisions, but without a seat at the table to ensure our trade deals are protected,” he said. “This would be a complete betrayal of everyone who voted to leave the EU. He is tearing up his party’s promises to respect the result of the referendum.”
Michael Fabricant, the Tory MP for Lichfield, said: “Jeremy Corbyn says he wants the UK to be ‘internationalist’, but this is completely at odds with having us in a customs union with EU, which will prevent us making any trade deal internationally unless agreed upon by the EU as a whole.
“This is not Brexit.”
Walsall North’s Conservative MP Eddie Hughes, said people who had ‘voted for change’ in the referendum would be ‘disappointed’ to hear that Mr Corbyn was ‘offering more of the same’.
He added: “The EU isn’t working for local people, so sticking with the bits of the EU that aren’t working, isn’t the change people are looking for and I suspect a lot of Labour voters in the Black Country are going to be disappointed that Jeremy has missed an opportunity for serious change.”
Wolverhampton South East MP Mr McFadden, who sits on the Brexit Select Committee, said: “This is welcome and overdue.
“Remaining part of a customs union arrangement would be good for our economy and help us to meet our commitment not to have a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
Mr McFadden is seemingly at odds with his party leader over the single market, having backed a campaign to keep the UK in it.
“There are big economic benefits in maintaining a close relationship to the single market,” he said.