Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, says that Labour will call for the United Kingdom to be in a customs union with the European Union once it withdraws from the bloc. The said move would smoothen the issue regarding the Irish border. However, it will limit the ability of Britain to enter its own free trade deals with other nations.
Talking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC last Sunday, Kier Starmer said that being in a customs union with the European Union was essential in order to secure tariff-free access to the European Union once it withdraws from the bloc.
Starmer stated: “We’ve long championed being in a customs union with the EU and the benefits of that.
He added: “It’s the only way to get tariff-free access, it’s really important for our manufacturing base, and nobody can answer your question of how you keep your commitment to [having] no hard border in Northern Ireland without a customs union.
“Crunch time is coming for the Prime Minister. The majority in parliament needs to be heard, and it will be heard sooner or later.”
Starmer implied that Labour would offer support for amendments to a key Brexit bill that is tabled by rebel Tory MPs Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry which places the customs membership back on the table.
A customs union would enable free trade among members (i.e., the European Union and the United Kingdom), and a common external tariff regarding trade with non-members (i.e., the rest of the nations in the world). The customs union offers various advantages, including its simplicity and the fact that it could help deal with the issue of the Irish border. However, it could also make it harder to enter trade deals outside of the European Union.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has previously “categorically” ruled the United Kingdom out of any form of a customs union with the European Union (but she has proposed for a highly streamlined customs arrangement or “a new customs partnership”). She stressed the need to be allowed to strike independent trade deals.