Corbyn’s Customs Union

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, has confirmed that his party will now back remaining in the Customs Union. What Labour is now proposing is unlikely to be accepted by the EU, but is an astute piece of political positioning.

Corbyn said a Labour government would seek and ‘negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe.’ A Labour government, he explained, would want to have a say on future EU trade deals while ending freedom of movement. Labour would also seek to negotiate ‘protections, clarifications or exemptions where necessary in relation to privatisation and public service competition directives, state aid and procurement rules, and the posted workers directive.’[1]

It seems unlikely that the EU would accept this in exchange for a close relationship. The EU has consistently opposed ‘cherry-picking,’ which would allow the UK to maintain tariff-free access to the EU without upholding key parts of EU law. Labour are aiming for exemptions on state aid, aspects of TTIP and freedom of movement, while also maintaining a close relationship through the customs union. Judging by the EU’s statements on cherry-picking to date, it seems unlikely that a Labour government would achieve these objectives.

Politically, Labour’s suggestion of a customs union is clever positioning. The speech contained assurances which cater to Labour leavers, such as pledging to end freedom of movement. At the same time, Labour remainers will be encouraged that their leader has explicitly backed remaining in a customs union.

Perhaps more significantly, Labour can now back amendments to the Trade Bill and Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, which would commit the Government to staying in the customs union. Julian Smith MP, the Chief Whip, has reportedly told the Prime Minister that there is a ‘very real threat’ that Labour could unite with 15-20 Tory rebels and defeat the Government.[2] The change in policy increases the chances of a significant Government defeat over a central plank of its Brexit plan.

Labour does not need to worry about whether its plan is acceptable to the EU. In opposition it is more or less insulated from the realities of the negotiation table. Labour’s new position on the customs union is significant however. It increases the chances of a major Government defeat, while keeping both the pro and anti-EU elements of the party largely onside.



What Are The Implications Of Coronavirus for Transport Policy?

Some of the most dramatic effects of the Covid-19 outbreak and the response measures it demands have been on modes of transport. Airlines have been grounded, discretionary domestic travel is discouraged and the use of public transport is advised against.[1] Instead, the Government has promoted cycling and walking as a form of safe, socially distanced travel. With the consequences of the virus expected to persist for a ‘long period of time’[2] transport policy is shifting to keep people moving.

Read More »
Torness nuclear power station

Five Notable Developments In Nuclear This Week 17.04.2020

It has been announced that Jacobs, a Dallas headquartered energy consulting, engineering and construction services firm, has been awarded several contracts with an estimated combined value of $25 million. The contracts were awarded by Fusion for Energy (F4E), the ITER Organization and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in order to support leading-edge research in fusion energy.

Read More »
Torness nuclear power station

Five COVID-19 Developments In Nuclear 02.04.2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, EDF Energy has introduced a series of measures to ensure its employees are protected against the virus. Not only has it significantly reduced activity on its Hinkley Point C site from 4,000 to 2,000 workers, but it has also instituted extra cleaning, working from home, banning visitors, temperature checks, and bringing in more buses to allow workers to stay apart.

Read More »
  • Request A Free Consultation

    Get in touch to arrange your free consultation call.