Corbyn calls for new UK-EU customs union after Brexit

UK, Feb 26 (AFP): British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for “a new UK-EU customs union” after Brexit last night in a policy shift that could force Prime Minister ­Theresa May’s Tory government to change course.
“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 whatsoever for a hard border in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Giving the example of integrated supply chains in the car industry, Mr Corbyn said in a closely watched speech that it “makes no sense” for Britain to turn its back on “tariff-free trading rules that have served as well”.
“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,” he said in Coventry. “A new customs arrangement would ­depend on Britain being able to negotiate agreement of new trade deals in our national ­interest.”
But Mr Corbyn also cautioned that free-trade deals with China or the US would not compensate for loss of trade with the EU.
“Brexit is what we make of it, together,” he said. “Labour’s priority is to get the best Brexit deal for jobs and living standards.”
On Sunday Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer warned Mrs May that “crunch time is coming” over her Brexit plans, which she will set out on Friday, although she has always said Britain would not remain a member of the EU customs union.
Mrs May holds power only thanks to the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, and there is a serious threat her government could be brought down if a handful of her Conservative MPs cross the floor to demand that she pursues some kind of post-Brexit customs union.
EU supporters back a form of union, which would align tariffs charged on goods imported from the rest of the world, saying it was essential in retaining tariff-free ­access to the continental market.
Sir Keir suggested Labour could back an amendment by pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry to a trade bill going through parliament, demanding Mr May “take all necessary steps” to secure a trade agreement that “enables the UK to participate after exit day in a customs union with the EU”.
Brexiteers argue such a deal would prevent Britain from striking free-trade deals with the rest of the world, one of the benefits of leaving the EU.