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Frank Field: Keeping customs union would rat on Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn was today warned that keeping the UK ties to an EU customs union would mean ‘ratting’ on Leave voters in the party’s heartlands. 

Labour MP and Brexiteer Frank Field said staying tied to the arrangement would be a ‘deceit’ and betrayal of the referendum vote.

It comes after Labour’s Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer said Labour will change its policy to back staying in a customs union with the EU.

Sir Keir said Labour frontbenchers agreed ‘unanimously’ to change their policy at a meeting on Monday and Jeremy Corbyn will spell out the details on a major speech tomorrow.

But the change in policy sparked an immediate backlash with Mr Field saying the move is a bid to keep the UK tied to Brussels. 

 

But he faced immediately criticism from Labour MP and Brexiteer Frank Field (pictured today on Sunday Politics with Labour Remainer Stella Creasy) who said it would mean staying tied to the EU and ‘ratting on’ Leave voters.

Labour's Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer (pictured today) has warned Theresa May 'crunch time is coming' as he revealed Labour will change its policy to back staying in a customs union with the EU.

Labour’s Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer (pictured today) has warned Theresa May ‘crunch time is coming’ as he revealed Labour will change its policy to back staying in a customs union with the EU.

In a clash with Labour MP Stella Creasy, a vocal Remainer, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Mr Field said: ‘Are you going to rat on the people’s decisions to leave?

‘You are coming up with all these things – oh we will stay in the customs union, we will stay in the single market.

‘The decision was quite clear to leave.

‘And in the north Labour voters voted very clearly. Are you going to rat on them or not?’ 

Liam Fox urges Tories not to rebel over crucial customs union vote

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox urged Tory backbenchers not to rebel over the crucial vote to try to keep the UK in a customs union

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox urged Tory backbenchers not to rebel over the crucial vote to try to keep the UK in a customs union

Tory Remainers preparing to rebel to force the Government to sign up to a customs union with the EU have been urged to fall into line.

Tory rebel Anna Soubry has tabled an amendment to demand the UK stays in a union after Brexit.

And she has said she has cross party support for the amendment – raising the sprectre that the PM will suffer a humiliating defeat over it.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox urged Tory Remainers to keep an ‘open mind’ and not defy the PM. 

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘I would say to my colleagues that Theresa May has kept a broad range of views on the European issue for a reason.

‘We sat down with those differing views, we set out the issues, we looked at the options and we came to an agreement that we are all happy with.’

He added: ‘I hope that they will have an open mind and listen to what the Prime Minister says because I think that what the Prime Minister will set out will deal with a lot of the reservations that they have.’

Asked if legislation was being delayed because the Government would lose, he replied: ‘We want to persuade our colleagues of the merits of our argument before we take the bill forward.’

Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘I say to my colleagues, who might want to change some of this, just be very careful on this one because you’re being invited into a Labour party tactical game which will actually end up in real damage to the UK.’

Ms Soubry indicated she could decide not to push the amendment to a  vote – but only if Theresa May makes major concessions in her Brexit speech this Friday.    

Mr Field said the EU was corrupt, nearly bankrupt, and far from keeping the peace on the continent has sparked tensions in eastern Europe with Russia.

He added: ‘Do we disguise the fact by pretending that we are going to have a customs union or some other arrangement, that counters what the clear declaration of northern Labour voters actually said.

‘And there is no evidence they have changed their side.’ 

He added: ‘The key thing is the referendum decision was clear, particularly in the north with Labour voters.

‘The question is are we going to keep faith with them – I want to…..or are we going to dress up a deceit.’ 

His blistering attack came after Sir Keir had gone on television to suggest Labour would announce a major policy shift in Mr Corbyn’s speech tomorrow.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary also warned the PM that Labour could unite with Tory rebels to back an amendment calling for the UK to stay in a customs union with the bloc.

If they back the vote, being called by leader Remainer rebel Anna Soubry, then Mrs May could suffer a humiliating defeat which throws her Brexit plans into crisis.  

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox urged Tory backbenchers not to rebel over the crucial vote.  

Sir Keir told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that Labour wants to negotiate a customs union with Brussels which will be the same as the one the UK has now.  

He said Labour had ‘long championed being in a customs union with the EU and the benefits’.

He added: ‘Obviously it’s the only way of realistically to get tariff free access.

‘It’s really important for our manufacturing base and nobody can answer the question how you keep your commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland without a customs union.’

Sir Keir said Labour had had ‘many weeks of discussion unanimously’ and had agreed to change their policy.

He continued: ‘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.

‘It’s a customs union, that’s what the CBI are saying now, it’s what the various amendments are now all saying – there’s going to have to be a new agreement, but will it do the work of the current customs union? Yes, that’s the intention.’

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour frontbenchers agreed 'unanimously' to change their policy at a meeting on Monday and Jeremy Corbyn will spell out the details on a major speech tomorrow.

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour frontbenchers agreed ‘unanimously’ to change their policy at a meeting on Monday and Jeremy Corbyn will spell out the details on a major speech tomorrow.

Theresa May (pictured leaving church in Maidenhead today) is facing a defeat over an amendment calling for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU

Theresa May (pictured leaving church in Maidenhead today) is facing a defeat over an amendment calling for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU

Sir Keir also warned the PM that Labour are considering joining Tory revels to back Ms Soubry’s amendment.

He said: ‘The Labour front bench put down a number of amendments paving the way for the option of a customs union – they went down a few weeks ago.

‘Now these cross-party amendments have gone down essentially saying the same thing and to put it bluntly crunch time is coming for the Prime Minister.

Asked whether Labour would back the cross-party amendments, he said: ‘We haven’t made a final decision on that but they are so close to our amendments … but whether it’s our amendments or cross-bench amendments.

‘Crunch time is now coming for the Prime Minister because the majority of Parliament does not back her approach to a customs union and the majority in Parliament needs to be heard and it will be heard sooner rather than later.’ 

Mr Fox urged Tory backbenchers not to rebel over the crucial vote.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show:  ‘I hope that they will have an open mind and listen to what the Prime Minister says because I think that what the Prime Minister will set out will deal with a lot of the reservations that they have.’

Asked if legislation was being delayed because the Government would lose, he replied: ‘We want to persuade our colleagues of the merits of our argument before we take the bill forward.’ 

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn is facing mounting pressure to cave even further to Remainers in his party who are pushing for a soft Brexit. 

A letter backed by more than 80 figures across the party exposed the internal divisions on how to proceed.

The group warned the leader his plans for investment in schools, hospitals and social care would be unfundable unless the UK stays in the EU single market.

In a statement, released to the Observer, was backed by senior figures including Chuka Umunna and Lord Kinnock.

It said: ‘Labour must clearly and unambiguously set as a negotiating objective the goal of remaining part of the European economic area, in order to participate on a permanent basis in the single market.’

 



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