Debate Magazine

Strange Thought - Maybe Jeremy Corbyn Was Right All Along (on This Particular Issue)...

Posted on the 14 March 2019 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

I've pretty much ignored Labour's wafflings about Brexit because they are woefully unclear and contradictory, all they do is trot out some gibberish and repeat the mantra "avoiding a damaging Tory Brexit".
In among the waffle however, Jeremy Corbyn himself has been consistent on two matters - he refuses to say how he voted in the Referendum and has always said that he thinks the UK should leave the EU but remain in the Customs Union. This always seemed like a daft idea to me, and I automatically assumed it was wrong because he said it.
This is a perfectly plausible outcome - Turkey is in the Customs Union (actually, it's in customs union with the Customs Union as this lengthy but informative article explains) but not in the EU. The CU only applies to goods, not services; Turkey is not in CAP or CFP'; there's no free movement between EU and Turkey; a lot of EU rules simply don't apply there, and so on.
At our last YPP meet-up, Mombers (a moderate Remain voter) asked me what was so bad about staying in the Customs Union, given that the average tariffs are only 1.5% (a drop in the ocean compared to the current UK domestic tariff of 20% on most goods and services).
And to be honest, I struggled to think of anything really bad. Even the hard Leaver present couldn't think of any fatal flaw. Which got me thinking. Clearly, it's not a one way bet and there are downsides, but it would fix a lot of actual problems (car manufacturer supply chains) and perceived problems (chlorinated chicken, Irish border).
So not much changes, nothing changes for the better (but those who would gain don't know it so aren't protesting) but nothing changes for the worse either and everybody knows what they are doing. A price worth paying to get out of the EU.
The Week has a nice short article on the pro's and con's of leaving it (so the con's are pro-CU etc).
The advantages (actual or perceived) of staying in the CU make sense to me.
What are the disadvantages of staying in the CU, do they outweigh the advantages?
The first linked article lists some downsides for Turkey of the EU-Turkey deal, but these are custom deals and we should be able to do better. Turkey made a lot of concessions being a much weaker partner and seeing this as a first step to full EU membership. The UK is going in the other direction. I've read other articles and all the disadvantages, while real, are fairly minor.
The second article lists the following:
Hard Brexiteers warn that staying in a customs deal with the EU will prevent the UK from negotiating future trade deals.
That is true, but we've not done very well so far, in two-and-a-half years, we've managed an FTA with Switzerland and that's it. I'd rather have free trade with Europe than with the Americans anyway.
May herself has been vehement in her desire for Brexit Britain to be a “global leader in free trade”, arguing in her Mansion House speech that it would be a “betrayal of the British people” to stymie its potential by joining a customs union.
Ignore the grandstanding crap about "global leader in free trade". What does that even mean? We should be doing things for our own benefit, not to impress or influence other people. The deal which May (a Remain fifth columnist) is pushing really is a "betrayal of the British people", so she can shut up.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has tweeted that “the referendum vote was clear - we need to take back control of trade - that means leaving the protectionist customs union”.
The vote was to leave the EU, full stop. Everybody had their own reason why they voted Leave. I doubt that many Leave voters put "take back control of trade" at the top of their list of reasons.
Arch Brexiteer and chair of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued that staying within a customs union would leave the UK paying Brussels huge sums each year while having no say on rules and regulations imposed on business and commerce.
He can f--- right off. The first part is either a lie or evidence that he knows nothing about it. If we were in the Customs Union, we would have to impose EU mandated tariffs (about £3 - £4 billion a year) but would not need to hand them over to the EU any more, pretty much the opposite of what he said. The EU will no doubt stiff us for an 'access fee', but such is life, it depends on the numbers. As long as it's less than £10 billion a year (or whatever our net payments are now), that's a win.
It is true that we would have no say over the rules, but:
a) EU rules on quality of food and goods seem fair enough to me
b) the UK is a fairly typical European country. Measures that 'protect' French farmers would also 'protect' UK farmers; measures that harm UK potteries would also harm German potteries etc. The EU would have to pretty devious to think up things which only harm UK producers or consumers while benefiting them in EU Member States.
c) UK services would be entirely outside the system anyway.
Rees-Mogg believes that, after leaving the union, the UK should phase out all tariffs in order to reduce consumer prices and stimulate competition.
Oh does he now? The average EU tariff is only 1.5% for crying out loud, that is the least of our worries. I bet he loves VAT though.


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