Corbyn sets out post-Brext vision for customs union

Labour would maintain Britain’s position in the EU customs union and seek to remain in agencies such as Euratom, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said today.

Jeremy Corbyn

Speaking in Coventry, the labour leader said his party would seek a final deal that gives Britain full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union.

“We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal,” said Corbyn. “So Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.

“But we are also clear that the option of a new UK customs union with the EU would need to ensure the UK has a say in future trade deals.

Corbyn added that a new customs arrangement would depend on Britain being able to negotiate agreement of new trade deals in the national interest.

“Labour would not countenance a deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others,” he said. “That would mean ending up as mere rule takers.”

Commenting on Corbyn’s speech, ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said: “We welcome the position set out by the leader of the opposition today that Labour will support a customs union with the EU and stay in important EU agencies.

“Any new customs processes introduced after the UK leaves the EU could cost our sectors up to £1.5bn a year. New burdens like these would harm the UK’s capacity to compete in international markets and weaken the ability of industry to generate growth and jobs.”

Corbyn used his speech to describe a post-Brexit vision of Britain that involves remaining in regulatory agencies like Euratom.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association said: “The UK’s civil nuclear sector has consistently stated that remaining a member of Euratom after the UK leaves the European Union is its preferred option, offering continuity and predictability in an otherwise uncertain environment for the UK.

“The government’s position to replicate the current Euratom arrangements has already proved to be both a time-consuming and uncertain process, and it has only just begun.

“As yet, no new Nuclear Cooperation Agreements (NCAs) have been signed, discussions for a new trading arrangement with the EU have not begun, an agreement on continued involvement in nuclear R&D has not yet been reached and without a transitional period and continued relationship with Euratom, a new safeguarding inspections regime will need to both be agreed and capable of implementation by March 2019 – something the Office of Nuclear Regulation has stated it would not be able to deliver.”

Corbyn’s speech coincides with results of a survey published today that found 94 per cent of respondents unsatisfied with government’s handling of their Brexit concerns.

The survey of owner managed businesses (OMB) by Moore Stephens found 51 per cent of OMBs agreeing that their single biggest concern for 2018 is how Brexit negotiations will affect them, far ahead of other issues such as skills shortages (41 per cent), cyber-attacks (29 per cent) and increased regulation (28 per cent).

A further 38 per cent of owner-managed businesses said that the introduction of trade tariffs was their biggest concern.