Jeremy Corbyn finally confirmed this week that the Labour party will support Britain to stay in a customs union after Brexit. The Labour leader has kept an extremely ambiguous semi silence since the Brexit referendum. This probably has to do a lot with his own euro sceptic beliefs but I suspect it is more to do with a finely calculated electoral strategy, to keep equally content those who voted to leave in the old industrial strongholds and those who voted to stay in. As a PM in waiting he has it easier than Theresa May. She has being juggling this divided nation since the referendum happened with her party in a perpetual state of war. Her weakness and her imprecisions come from her intention to please everyone and she is failing to do so with the world and especially the EU watching every single step.
Mr Corbyn has being juggling with exactly the same divisions but away from the relentless media focus. Both are making precisely the same mistake trying to see Brexit as an electoral opportunity instead of a question of state. Jeremy’s new found position is not a very plausible soft version of Brexit which is aimed only at the Government. It not a plan for the future of the country. It is a stratagem to bring down this incapable Tory government by splitting them even further.
It is time now for the main parties to stop disguising reality. There is no such thing as a soft Brexit. It is wrong to keep going on about the choice this country needs to make between a harder or softer version of leaving the EU. The real choice is staying in or leaving. There is no magic formula capable of pleasing everyone. Not even staying in a customs union will provide the perfect solution. Corbyn aims for a customs union where the UK will be able to have a say in future agreements between the EU and third parties which so far the EU bluntly refuses to accept.
On paper being a member of a customs union will be the best solution for the UK. You can have all the trade without the free movement or paying into the European Union chest or being supervised by the European court of justice (ECJ), and most importantly it will bring no hard border between the UK and Ireland. It is not that simple though. The EU has so far agreed to frictionless trade only for countries that have accepted free movement as members of the European Economic Area like Norway. The only example of a country outside the EU with which it has a customs deal is Turkey. It was signed with the hope that one day they would join the EU but as the deal stands now it is not an example of what the UK needs. Their agreement covers only goods and not services or finances and it does follows EU rules on production of goods. Brexit was voted to regain control of the countries own business so neither of these examples will suit this mandate. Same applies to the illusion that membership of a customs union outside the EU would free Britain from the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Something else will have to arbitrate disputes between Britain and the EU. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has been mentioned but EFTA does indeed follow ECJ rulings. The UK will end up following EU trade policy anyway to sell into the EU marketplace but with no power whatsoever to decide its current policies or any changes in the future.
So once you have faced all the facts it seems that a customs union will only work really for the Irish border issue. For the rest it seems a soft Brexit is merely a weapon against the Tories “Brexit means Brexit” as in fact it will leave the UK as close as possible to the EU without being one of its pillars anymore. Immediately the question pops up… why leave then? And so it all starts again. The dilemma this country is facing needs a second referendum. The main parties have proved incapable to look no// further than their own interest when it comes to the future of the country. Brexit means Brexit. No hard. No soft. Completely in or completely out. The final decision should be made by the people not the parliament. Whatever that decision might be. It cannot be worse that this utter nonsense.