This article was originally published on Comment Central
It is increasingly clear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are colluding with EU officials to undermine the Government’s Brexit plans. The Labour Leader may not realise it, but he has undoubtedly become a puppet of EU officials, who desperately want Britain to stay tied into the EU’s economic structures. By calling for a Customs Union with the EU, Corbyn is betraying the millions of Labour supporters who voted Leave.
Despite his longstanding Euroscepticism, Corbyn has caved into the Europhile wing of his Party. After meetings with EU negotiators, he has now proposed ‘a’ Customs Union with the EU. Corbyn suggests this would have the same effects as the existing EU Customs Union, firmly tying Britain to the EU and with no chance to explore the worldwide trade ambitions for a global Britain. This policy is in conflict with Labour values as well as the EU Referendum result, threatening the prospects of a clean Brexit for the United Kingdom should the Labour Party ever get into Government.
Many voters will see this as a political manoeuvre from the Party while betraying a large proportion of their supporters. Jeremy Corbyn has met the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, three times in the last few months, and Labour’s Brexit team are thought to be in contact with the European Commission via senior Labour MEPs. Corbyn’s Customs Union speech was clearly timed to coincide with the publication of the EU’s Draft Withdrawal Treaty, which proposed Northern Ireland stays in a Customs Union. This collusion with those on the opposite side of the negotiating table over Brexit is appalling.
During the Referendum campaign, it was made clear to the electorate that Leaving the EU means Leaving the Customs Union. Labour supporters, in particular, criticised the EU Customs Union as a protectionist racket which imposes tariffs on non-EU goods. It forces us to keep producers in developing countries out of our markets, to protect the economic interests of European producers. For example, while we are in the EU, the lobbying power of Spanish orange producers in Brussels means Britain has been forced to impose a 16% tariff on oranges from countries such as South Africa. This discrimination goes against Labour’s historic commitment to internationalism.
While these current tariffs serve to protect some European producers, such as Spanish orange growers, tariffs on goods like oranges and coffee – which we do not produce ourselves – yield us no benefit whatsoever. The chance to repeal these tariffs will be a huge advantage after Brexit.
Regardless of the effects on British producers, all these EU tariffs are imposed at a cost to British consumers. The Customs Union imposes particularly high tariffs on food, clothing and footwear, which represent a large proportion of the spending of ordinary working Britons. Supporting higher food prices in this way entirely conflicts with Labour’s self-portrayal as the party ‘for the many’.
Once we Leave the EU and its Customs Union, we will be in full control of our tariffs. The British Government will be able to decide which tariffs it wants to impose on which goods, in the sole interest of the British economy. This is what Leave voters, including Labour supporters, clearly voted for.
Membership of a Customs Union would mean surrendering control of our trade policy to Brussels. Turkey, which is in a ‘partial’ Customs Union with the EU, has no influence on the trade deals agreed by European negotiators. Corbyn’s proposal would result in the EU negotiating free trade deals ‘on our behalf’, paying no regard to Britain’s interests. We would be forced to accept whatever is imposed on us by Brussels.
Jeremy Corbyn has suggested the UK would “have a say” in any EU trade negotiations with non-EU countries. He said he would not “countenance a deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules.”
In Brussels’ parlance, this is a clear case of ‘having your cake and eating it.’ There is no precedent for the EU to agree on a Customs Union with a third country as equal partners. In addition, Corbyn has clearly not listened to what comes out of the voices of the EU. While the UK has approached the negotiations in a spirit of respect and collaboration, EU negotiators have sought to use the Transition Period to impose their laws on Britain. Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, even hinted last week the EU may take advantage of this phase of the negotiations to force through new laws which will impact on Britain! They have no respect for British sovereignty and would not allow Britain to be a fair and equal partner in any Customs Union.
The reality is, a Customs Union with the EU would leave us at the mercy of EU negotiators and their threats and manipulations. We would have to accept deals such as TTIP (the failed EU-US trade deal) which Corbyn vigorously opposed, as he perceived it a threat to the National Health Service. The TTIP deal fell through for a variety of reasons – it was not merely a rejection of US chlorinated chicken! In any case, the huge number of years it took to negotiate an ultimately doomed deal reflects the EU’s incapability in international trade negotiations.
The officials in Brussels are fearful of a fully independent Britain – which will mean lower food prices and new free trade deals – setting a bright example to other Member States who might also want to Leave the EU. Staying in a Customs Union would deny Britain some of the benefits of Brexit, making Leaving the EU looks less appealing. They have found a willing lackey in Jeremy Corbyn to attempt to pressure the Government into this irrational policy.
Despite his longstanding Euroscepticism, Jeremy Corbyn has now shamefully caved into the staunch Remoaners in his Party. The Labour Party are now trying to do the work of the EU in seeking to water down Brexit in a transparent attempt to bring down the Government. As we can attest from our postbag, millions of Labour Leave voters are hugely disappointed at this illogical new Labour policy change, trying to tie us to the European Union. Regaining our independence on trade policy is an essential aspect of Brexit. We must make sure we Get Britain Out of the EU – including both the Customs Union and the Single Market.
Peter Lyon is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out