Wednesday 17 October 2018

Corbyn sets up showdown with May over customs union plans

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest with flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: Getty Images
Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest with flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

Arj Singh

Jeremy Corbyn has set up a high-stakes showdown with Theresa May by backing a "new and comprehensive" UK-EU customs union to ensure tariff-free trade after Brexit.

The Labour leader's announcement opens up a clear divide with the UK prime minister, who wants to be outside any customs union so Britain can sign free-trade deals with countries around the world after leaving the EU.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described Mr Corbyn's position as a "betrayal" of the Brexit vote and a "cynical" and "deluded" attempt to link up with Tory rebels to inflict a damaging defeat on Mrs May in an upcoming expected vote on a cross-party amendment calling for a customs union.

But 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.

To back his argument, Mr Corbyn used the example of Mini cars, which during manufacturing cross the Channel three times without any tariffs or border checks before the finished vehicle rolls off the production line.

His intervention came as the cabinet prepared for a Thursday meeting where it will finalise the Government's position ahead of a major Brexit speech from Mrs May on Friday.

Setting out Labour's policy at a speech in Coventry, Mr Corbyn said: "Every country, whether it's Turkey, Switzerland, or Norway, that is geographically close to the EU, without being an EU member state, has some sort of close relationship to the EU. Some more advantageous than others."

Irish Independent

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