There is nothing socialist, internationalist or Labour about the EU’s Customs Union

There is nothing socialist, internationalist or Labour about the EU’s Customs Union

The Customs Union is a fundamental and core part of the organisation of the European Union. Jeremy Corbyn has now announced that Labour would seek a new Customs Union with the European Union after we leave. This proposal means that the next Labour government is potentially handing over an enormous area of foreign policy to an unaccountable and unelected organisation, namely the European Commission, over which we – the British people – will have absolutely no control in the future.

Labour voters need to realise that there is nothing socialist, internationalist or Labour about the Customs Union. It is a protectionist racket that protects the wealthiest and most developed part of the world against developing countries, Third World producers and fair trade opportunities. It places barriers between us and the rest of the world and imposes restrictions on trade with the rest of the world. This is not what people voted for at the referendum and this is not taking back control. Five million Labour Leave voters will be deeply concerned with this policy announcement. Having the ability to determine our own trade policy and relationships was fundamental to our vote to leave the EU.

Turkey currently has a customs arrangement with the European Union. However she has absolutely no influence over the development of that Customs Union, neither does it have decision-making powers over trade negotiations. Labour is proposing a new arrangement that would give the United Kingdom the influence and power that Turkey currently does not have. Are we really going to expect the European Union to allow the United Kingdom to ‘cherry-pick’ when it has already explicitly said that it will not do so? Barnier has said it is his duty to protect the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Jeremy himself highlighted that many EU trade arrangements have support for human rights at their core. Yet they are very rarely enforced. The EU has attempted to negotiate free trade arrangements with the United States, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would have placed our NHS at risk of privatisation. By subcontracting our ability to enforce our own trade relationships to the EU, we would essentially become a vassal state as pointed out by Barry Gardiner, our Shadow International Trade Secretary, last August. Labour is a great internationalist party, but this policy demeans our internationalism and goes against our core values. A future Labour government would not be able to stop a trade deal such as TTIP if we are tied into a customs union with the European Union, placing our socialism and our democracy in danger.

Diehard Remainers will see the announcement as a huge leap forward in their attempt to overturn the result of the referendum. It is notable that those championing this policy most strongly are the group of MPs and peers who not so long ago were attacking Jeremy and calling on him to resign. They will not stop at the Customs Union. They will now turn their efforts to trying to keep the United Kingdom in the Single Market. Jeremy has already said he wants a very close relationship with the Single Market, but this will not satisfy their desires. We cannot allow this small minority, out of sync with the majority of people in the country, to wield such power over policy within the Party.

Labour’s manifesto was a Brexit manifesto and achieved unprecedented support. Labour held on in the Midlands and the North where massive defeats were expected, largely due to our support for Brexit. The Lib Dems, the party of so-called ‘soft’ Brexit and even Remain, were routed in the general election. There is no appetite for a halfway house Brexit. Today, while many Labour MPs in London will cheer with delight, many councillors and MPs in the North of England will once again be looking over their shoulder in fear at the possible political consequences and fallout of this announcement. Frank Field has said this policy is essentially ratting on the referendum. We must now hope and pray that Labour Leave voters don’t rat on Labour.