This week Jeremy Corbyn announced the Labour Party will be supporting Britain’s membership of a customs union with the EU.
The customs union is a trading agreement we currently have with the EU and remaining in one would mean the UK would have to abide by trade rules set out by the EU. It would therefore prevent the UK from making new, direct agreements with other nations. It would also make us subject to EU regulations in this area without having a say on what they are.
This announcement by Labour is, in many ways surprising, given that just nine months ago the party’s General Election manifesto ruled this option out. It is hardly a shock therefore that this announcement has been called opportunistic.
When people voted for Brexit in 2016, they voted to restore sovereignty to the UK. An extremely important part of that is for us to be able to trade freely with the rest of the world. People didn’t vote to have one foot in and one foot out of the EU. Having a customs union with the EU would not just prevent us entering into trade agreements with other countries, it would force us to accept tariffs and some taxation levels set by the EU. It would also reduce the incentives that other countries have for entering into a trade deal with the UK.
Brexit doesn’t mean we are turning our backs on Europe, it means we are embracing the world and being more internationalist with our outlook. The EU itself has confirmed that 90% of the world’s economic growth will come from outside of the EU. We have to take this opportunity to take advantage of that and being tied to the EU in a customs union will prevent it.
The Brexit vote was about Britain leaving the EU and being free to set our own laws and regulations. Staying in a customs union with the EU would be the exact opposite of this and would be a betrayal of the outcome of the referendum.