1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Corbyn: Britain should be in EU customs union

February 26, 2018

UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says Britain should negotiate a new tariff-free customs deal with the EU after Brexit. His announcement is likely to rouse Conservative critics of Prime Minister May's hard-line stance.

Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech on Brexit
Image: Reuters/D. Staples

In a highly anticipated policy speech on Monday, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for "a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union" after Britain splits from the EU.

Staying in such a system would allow Britain to skirt tariff barriers for its exports to the bloc's 27 member states, as well as avoid the risk of returning to a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Read moreEU warns Britain of 'unavoidable' trade barriers if it leaves customs union

"We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal," Corbyn said, speaking in Coventry, central England.

"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."

Read moreEU's Tusk says UK Brexit plans 'based on pure illusion'

More 'freedom' for Britain

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out entering into an EU customs union after Brexit, saying it would prevent Britain from striking free trade deals with fast-growing economies like India and China. 

A spokesman reiterated the government's position on Monday: "We want to have the freedom to sign our own trade deals and to reach out into the world," he said, adding that Britain would still seek a new "customs partnership" or a "highly streamlined customs arrangement" with the EU.

Read moreUK Brexit minister David Davis dismisses 'Mad Max' future fears

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson accused Corbyn of cynicism, saying on Twitter that his Brexit policy would "leave UK a colony of the EU — unable to take back control of our borders or our trade policy."

May is seeking to finalize a divorce deal with the EU before Britain leaves the bloc next year. Negotiations about the terms of the split, however, have opened up divisions in the ruling Conservative Party, with a small group calling for a "soft Brexit" and closer economic ties with the EU.

These pro-EU rebels within May's Conservatives will likely team up with Labour when lawmakers vote on the issue in Parliament.


Can Brexit be stopped?

In his Brexit policy speech, Corbyn warned that free trade deals with China or the United States would not make up for loss of trade with the EU, and urged MPs to prioritize "jobs, rights and living standards."

"I appeal to MPs of all parties to be prepared to put the people's interests before the ideological fantasies," he said.

May is due to set out her own vision for Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU in a speech on Friday.

nm/ls (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.