It would be a “disaster” for the United Kingdom to strike a customs union deal with the European Union, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner has said.
His comments put him at odds with shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer, who has argued remaining in the customs union should be kept “on the table”.
Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said Labour had yet to make a “judgement” about what its policy on the customs union would be.
The EU customs union agreement means each member state applies the same tariffs to goods from outside the bloc and no extra tariffs are imposed on good as they travel between member states.
Gardiner told BBC Radio 4′s Westminster Hour that remaining in a customs union would leave the UK with an “asymmetrical relationship” with any other country the EU did a trade deal with.
“So the EU could do a deal with another country - let’s say America - which we would be bound by in the UK, we would have to accept the liberalisation of our markets, we would have to accept their goods coming into our markets on the terms agreed by Europe which could be prejudicial to us but we would not have the same access into America’s markets,” he said.
“We would be bound to try and negotiate it but why would America give us that access when it’s got all the liberalisation of our market that it wants. It’s a disaster.”
Gardiner also said the UK would become a “vassal state” of Brussels if it adopted a Norwegian style relationship with the EU.
“You actually end up paying money into the EU budget but you have less control over the regulations than you do now with a seat round the table,” he said.
Corbyn has been accused by the Lib Dems of “parroting the lie” that the UK cannot stay in single market once it leaves the EU.
The Labour leader yesterday told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Britain would have to quit the single market after Brexit as membership was “inextricably linked” to being in the EU.
But there are countries which are not in the EU but are in the single market - including Norway and Iceland.