BY JAMIE FOSTER
Jeremy Corbyn has spelled out Labour’s position on the EU stating that he wishes to have a customs union with the EU that will leave the UK a say in trade deals struck with other nations.
At first blush this would appear a fantastical position. Having left the EU it is impossible that Britain could have either a vote or a veto over trade deals. What Mr Corbyn means by a ‘say’ is highly unclear. What is clear is that this arrangement would prevent Britain from negotiating our own trade deals with other countries. Boris Johnson says this would leave Britain as a colony of Europe. We would be swept along with whatever trade decisions the EU made with no real say over deals. Why then would Corbyn make such a dramatic U turn to arrive at such a position?
It would appear that this is pure politics. By stating this position Corbyn is reaching out to Remainer Tory rebels who he hopes would vote with Labour and ultimately bring down the government. Corbyn hopes to steal a march on Theresa May who will be announcing the government’s position on Friday. The government’s position is expected to be that we stay outside a customs union. This is in keeping with a recognition that the referendum vote was a vote to reject all of the EU, not just part of it.
It is a recognition that we, the British People, majority-voted to ensure that we took back control of negotiating trade deals and brought them under the democratic process. To remain in any sort of customs union with the EU is to accept the anti democratic force having a real effect on our ability to make trade deals. It is everything that the majority of the British people voted against in the referendum.
Corbyn is seeking to ally himself with the anti democratic Remainer elite in his new stance. In doing so he is turning his back on the working class heartland that voted so overwhelmingly for Brexit. As Labour MP Frank Field says, it is a betrayal of the Brexit vote. It is something that Corbyn should be punished by traditional Labour voters in strong Brexit seats for.
If UKIP wasn’t in such a mess they could be making inroads into Labour seats on the back of this. Corbyn’s position is the worst of all possible worlds, leaving the EU in charge of important decision-making while Britain trails along behind, caught up in the EU’s wash. It is the opposite of what the Brexit vote was all about. The point of a customs union is protectionism. It will prevent poorer countries selling their agricultural products into Britain in the way that it always has done. Surely part of the Brexit vote was a desire to open up trade with the rest of the world rather than carrying on with EU protectionism.
The problem for Mrs May is that her mishandling of the last general election has left her government in a weak position, vulnerable to the machinations of a handful of Tory Remainers. Once again her leadership is called into question.
Times like these call for a strong leader who is able to marshal the party and it would appear Mrs May is not that leader. Maybe the time has come for the party to swallow the bitter pill and replace her with someone who has a clearer vision to lead them. Her speech on Friday will be a moment for her to stamp her authority. Time will tell if she is in a position to do so.
With Corbyn positioning Labour as the party of Remainers it is important that the Tories keep the line. It is essential that Britain keeps outside of a customs union. We need to be able to make our own trade deals with as many countries as we can. If the EU is so open to making trade deals, then there should be no reason why they can’t make a deal with us that respects our sovereignty while opening up trade. This is the sort of deal Mrs May is trying to make and it is a far more credible position than staying inside a customs union. Let’s hope that she can achieve it so that Corbyn’s posturing can be seen for what it is.