Labour is to back a post-Brexit partnership with the EU “pretty much like the current customs union,” Emily Thornberry has revealed.
Under the party’s new plan, Britain would negotiate jointly with the EU to strike third party trade deals, the Shadow Foreign Secretary told LBC’s Iain Dale on Thursday.
It comes as Jeremy Corbyn prepares to make a speech on Monday setting out Labour’s position on Brexit and follows pressure from members for the party to take a more pro-EU stance.
Thornberry said the only thing that would avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland was joining a customs union.
She added: “Is there any way which we can have frictionless trade with Europe without tariffs, without great lorry parks at Dover, without being in a form of customs unions? Can’t think of anything else. Seriously can’t think of anything else. So of course we will need to be in a form of customs union.”
Asked what kind of a customs union Labour would seek, she said: “So, technically, because we’re leaving the EU, we can’t be in the customs union that we are in now, so we leave and then we have to negotiate a new agreement.
“That, we think, is likely to be a customs union that will look pretty much like the current customs union.”
Dale then challenged Thornberry on striking new trade deals.
Thornberry said Britain could be “connected” to third countries via the EU but would negotiate jointly, adding: “It’s not the same as now because at the moment the EU negotiates deals with third parties, we would need to play a part in forming those rules [in new trade deals].”
She added: “We wouldn’t have the same relationship with Brussels. There would need to be a more arms length relationship and we would need to make sure any deal that was done with third countries would be in our interest, not contrary to our interest.”
Theresa May is also to set out more detail on the UK’s negotiating position on the customs union next week.
The Prime Minister spent Thursday at Chequers with members of the Cabinet with hardline Brexiteers pressuring her to leave the Customs Union and push to negotiate new trade deals during the transition period.