Labour Brexit Secretary Now Says UK Could Stay in EU Customs Union Forever


Labour has retreated even further from its previous support for a clean Brexit from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, with Sir Keir Starmer suggesting Britain should stay in the latter indefinitely.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary suggested that staying in the bloc’s Customs Union — which would more or less preclude any chance of Britain being able to sign her own trade deals again — was “a viable option”, according to an interview reported by The Financial Times.

“The proposition that third-party trade deals are going to be immediately available [after Brexit] and will compensate for any loss of trade with the EU is an untested proposition,” claimed Starmer, adding that the UK would need to strike a deal with a “major bloc”, such as the U.S. or China, in order to compensate fully.

“The trade deals with some other countries that have been discussed simply wouldn’t be capable of compensating for the loss of trade with the EU,” he claimed.

In fact, U.S. President Donald Trump has called frequently for a “very big, very powerful” trade deal with Britain once she leaves the European Union and regains its power to conduct an independent trade policy.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, also appears keen to strike an agreement, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special adviser Tomohiko Taniguchi recently stating there was an “inherent preference amongst Japanese people, Japanese industrialists, to doing business wherever possible in the United Kingdom”.

Starmer’s statement is just the latest in a series of about-faces by the Labour Party on Brexit.

Its commitment ahead of the June 2017 snap election to respect the referendum result and support a clean break from the Single Market and its associated Free Movement immigration regime was already junked by Deputy Leader Tom Waston at the beginning of September.

With respect to the Customs Union membership, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner had rejected it unequivocally as “deeply unattractive” as recently as July, suggesting there has been a substantial internal struggle within Labour in recent weeks.

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