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Labour support a customs union with EU says shadow Brexit secretary

Labour support a customs union with EU says shadow Brexit secretary

But a number of voices within the party have warned that the move - which would prevent Britain from making its own trade deals with countries outside the European Union - will alienate working-class voters who back Brexit.

Leo Varadkar said the commitment included a "back-stop arrangement" whereby, if all else fails, Northern Ireland would "maintain full alignment with the rules of the internal market and customs union which are relevant to the avoidance of a border, North-South cooperation and the all-island economy".

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, warned it was now "crunch time" for Theresa May over her approach to the customs union, and said it would be "better" to reach "bold" new trade agreements by working with the EU.

Britain's opposition Labour party will back a new customs union with the EU, its Brexit policy chief said - a move that would facilitate trade with the bloc but limit Britain's ability to strike deals with other countries.

EU President Donald Tusk dismissed the reported plans as "based on pure illusion".

Sir Keir said Labour had had "many weeks of discussion unanimously" and had agreed to develop their policy, to be announced by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Monday.

Sir Keir claimed Labour had "long championed being in a customs union with the EU and the benefits of that".

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour now backs a customs union which would look "pretty much like" the current one after withdrawal. "Yes, that's the intention".

But Mr Corbyn is under pressure to clarify the position in favour of staying after Mr McDonnell argued that if Labour MPs linked up with pro-Remain Tories to vote down the Government's policy of leaving the customs union, it could drive Mrs May from power.

He suggested that Labour could back an amendment by pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry to a trade bill now going through parliament, demanding May "take all necessary steps" to secure a trade agreement that "enables the United Kingdom to participate after exit day in a customs union with the EU".

Heightening the prospect of a parliamentary defeat on the issue for Mrs May, Sir Keir suggested Labour could back Ms Soubry's move.

Trade minister Liam Fox, an arch eurosceptic, later told the same BBC programme that Britain had to be able to set its own trade policy with the rest of the world after leaving the European Union in March 2019.

The group, including eminent Labor politician Peter Mandelson and trade union leaders Bill Morris and Tony Young, also warned that "we can only properly fund services, schools, hospitals, social care and global development if our businesses thrive and our economy grows".

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