Jeremy Corbyn is set to announce today that if British voters back him at the next election, he will keep the nation tied to the European Union. It’s a move that has seen him accused “selling snake oil.”
Corbyn’s Labour Party has taken more than a year to outline its real position on Brexit and explain how it would proceed with the split, which will see Britain become the first nation to attempt to leave the 28-member-state bloc.
The Labour leader’s pledge to keep Britain in the customs union post-Brexit would mean the nation cannot sign its own trade deals with non-EU countries after Brexit – keeping the country tied to rules and regulations set in Brussels.
Brexit Minister David Davis said Labour was putting the nation at risk by giving away one of Britain’s trump cards. He also said that Labour had breached its own manifesto with the decision. “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,” Davis wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
The Tory party is currently divided over the issue, with some ministers remaining unconvinced that the nation should quit the club. The prime minister is stuck between raging Europhile ministers, who want to keep close ties with the bloc, and Euroskeptics ready to force a leadership challenge if she yields to Michel Barnier and the EU Brexit team.
“They can’t keep us in the customs union by another name. It would be a hokey-cokey amendment, one foot in and one foot out. It would be a complete sellout. If she does this the letters will go in [to trigger a leadership contest],” said one MP.
However, an amendment has been tabled by five Tory MPs, which could force May to remain in the customs union; and Labour has indicated that it could back the move by the rebels. May has already ruled out membership of the CU but some are hopeful she could U-turn.
All is set to be revealed on Thursday, when May gives a major speech setting out how she sees Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Corbyn will say there is a way for Britain to break away and form a new customs union – instead of being in “the” CU.
“The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems,” he will say. “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.”
Davis was keen to point out in his newspaper piece that he believes Labour’s approach will make it “impossible” for the party to meet its manifesto pledge to develop “best-in-class” free-trade deals.
The leader is coming under fire from his own party as many say it will be a deeply unpopular move.
Kate Hoey, a former Labour minister, said: “I hope Jeremy will remember that in the last election our manifesto commitments on the EU helped ensure that many ex-Labour voters who had gone to UKIP came back to us on the understanding that he was committed to leaving the EU and not leaving in name only, which is what any form of customs union with the EU would mean.”