Jeremy Corbyn 'betraying Brexit voters' with promise of strong relationship with single market

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Jeremy Corbyn set out Labour’s position on Brexit (PA)

  • Jeremy Corbyn sets out new Brexit vision for Labour
  • He would push for final deal that would include full access to European markets
  • …and maintain the benefits of the single market and the customs union
  • Corbyn speech given guarded praise by business leaders
  • But Tories accuse him of betraying Brexit voters


Jeremy Corbyn has set out Labour’s position on Brexit, committing the party to pushing for a “new, strong relationship” with the single market

In a speech in Coventry, the Labour leader said the UK must have its own version of the deals other neighbouring countries such as Norway and Turkey have to access the internal trading bloc.

And though Mr Corbyn drew some – guarded – praise from business leaders, Tory Brexiteers were quick to attack him, with Boris Jonson branding the speech ‘cynical and deluded CBI’.

Boris Johnson said Britain would be reduced to a “colony” of Brussels by Labour’s plans for a post-Brexit customs union with the EU.

The Foreign Secretary accused Mr Corbyn of raising a “white flag” on Brexit in order to try to defeat the Government in an upcoming Commons vote on remaining in a customs union.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Mr Corbyn was seeking to frustrate Brexit.

He said: “This is a cynical attempt by Labour to try and frustrate the Brexit process and play politics with our country’s future – all the while, betraying millions of Labour voters.

However, Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director-General, said Labour’s approach would put ‘jobs and business first by remaining in a close economic relationship with the EU’.

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said ‘many businesses, particularly manufacturers, will be pleased to hear the opposition’s proposal to keep a customs union on the table’.

Mr Corbyn, who has faced criticism for not making Labour’s position clear on Brexit, also said that existing single market rights, standards and protections would be accepted by Labour.

But it would negotiate protections and exemptions that could help workers and industry, such as changing state aid restrictions to allow governments to intervene to help struggling sectors.

The Labour leader will push for a ‘strong relationship’ with the single market (Rex)
A vote on the customs union could prove tricky for the Government (PA)

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Mr Corbyn’s plans breached the promises he made at the General Election and accused him of selling ‘snake oil’.

Labour’s ‘jobs first’ approach would include measures to stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour from abroad to undercut workers’ pay.

Mr Corbyn said: ‘Every country that is geographically close to the EU without being an EU member state, whether it’s Turkey, Switzerland, or Norway, has some sort of close relationship to the EU, some more advantageous than others.


Article 49: What is it and how can it reverse Brexit after the UK leaves the EU?
How the ‘Brussels Effect’ will continue to run Britain’s economy long after Brexit
How will Brexit affect your finances in 2018?
Facebook widens probe into Russian influence on Brexit vote
Second vote not undemocratic, Irish PM says on Brexit

‘Britain will need a bespoke relationship of its own. Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.

‘That new relationship would need to ensure we can deliver our ambitious economic programme, take the essential steps to upgrade and transform our economy, and build an economy for the 21st century that works for the many, not the few.

‘So we 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.

All the key events before and after Brexit Day in 2019 (PA)

‘We cannot be held back, inside or outside the EU, from taking the steps we need to support cutting edge industries and local business, stop the tide of privatisation and outsourcing or prevent employers being able to import cheap agency labour from abroad to undercut existing pay and conditions.’

The Labour leader’s comments are set to upset some in the party who want the UK to remain in the single market.

A letter backed by more than 80 senior figures warned the leader his plans for investment in schools, hospitals and social care would be unfundable unless the UK stays in the internal market.

But Mr Corbyn set out how Labour would commit to the UK being part of a customs union.

Mr Corbyn has faced criticism for not making Labour’s position on Brexit clear (Rex)

Labour has had ‘many weeks of discussion unanimously’ and agreed to develop its policy, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘The customs arrangements at the moment are hardwired into the membership treaty so I think everybody now recognises there’s going to have to be a new treaty – it will do the work of the customs union.’

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out membership of the single market or customs union after Brexit, a move that has angered Tory Remainers.

Mr Corbyn said leaving the European Union does not mean Britain is inevitably doomed.

Brexit Secretary David Davis described Mr Corbyn’s plans as ‘snake oil’ (Rex)

He said: ‘The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems.

‘Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down-to-earth and it’s in our hands: Brexit is what we make of it together.’

Theresa May has ruled out membership of the single market or customs union after Brexit (Rex)

Responding to Mr Corbyn’s speech, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage described the proposals as ‘the first step of a complete Labour sellout on the issue’.

He said: ‘Governments don’t negotiate trade deals, the European Commission (EC) negotiates trade deals.

‘If you’re part of a customs union you will not be involved in that.”

‘What [EC negotiator] Michel Barnier will say is “you now need to go further on the single market”.

‘The next big Labour speech on this will be that we’ll be inextricably linked to ‘a’ single market not ‘the’ single market.’

Mr Farage added: ’Labour voters will start to ask “are we really leaving?”’

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, David Davis said Labour’s plans would stop the UK from signing free trade deals with other countries around the world.

He added: ‘Labour may think they have stumbled across a simple solution to Brexit, but there is a lesson they are yet to learn: if it looks like snake oil, and it smells like snake oil, don’t expect it to make you feel better.’

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘A customs union with the EU is a welcome step. It’s right to acknowledge the benefits the UK gets from being part of the single market – and to seek to protect those benefits into the future.’

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting.