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24 July 2017

The Guardian: Labour at loggerheads over staying in customs union post-Brexit

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Divisions emerge in shadow cabinet after the shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner says it would be a disaster if Britain remained in customs union.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, has argued that the only option open to the UK would be a Turkey-style customs agreement, but claimed that such a deal would be “a disaster” as it would leave the UK in a weak position.

However, the shadow Brexit and foreign secretaries, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry, have told senior Labour colleagues that Britain could negotiate a better deal than Turkey and should be trying to do so.

They have said that negotiating a form of membership of the customs union, under which European countries negotiate trade deals collectively and have a common external tariff, must be kept on the table.

One shadow cabinet member told the Guardian that they were surprised Gardiner had made his comments publicly as the issue “was not settled” within the Labour party.

They revealed that Starmer and Gardiner had clashed over the positioning in meetings – with the issue creating tensions around the shadow cabinet table.

Another member of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team claimed the shadow trade secretary must have been speaking in a personal capacity “because that is not Labour party policy”. They claimed Starmer would be furious about the intervention, and profoundly disagreed with his colleague. 





Gardiner’s argument, on the BBC’s Westminster Hour, was that leaving the EU would mean Britain automatically losing membership of the customs union. The only option, he suggested, would be to then sign a customs agreement similar to Turkey’s – under which the country replicates the EU’s trade deals.

“But the trouble with that is that it gives you an asymmetrical relationship with the third-party countries that the EU does a deal with,” Gardiner said, claiming it could result in the UK being forced to liberalise its markets to countries that do not have to do the same in return.

“It’s a disaster,” he said.

Starmer has made clear he thinks the customs union must remain on the table. Meanwhile, Thornberry has sided with the shadow Brexit secretary when the issue has come to a head in meetings, a source told the Guardian.

Gardiner also used the interview to claim that the UK would become a “vassal state” if it tried to replicate Norway, which has unfettered access to single market through its membership of the European Economic Area. [...]

Full article on The Guardian

Brexit means leaving the single market and the customs union. Here’s why -  opinion piece in The Guardian

Labour should back the single market. Barry Gardiner is wrong -  opinion piece in The Guardian

© The Guardian

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