Labour confused over customs union

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The Labour shambles over Brexit was laid bare today when a shadow minister could not say whether the party wanted Britain to remain in the customs union in the long term.

Shadow international trade minister Bill Esterson repeatedly failed on BBC radio to give a clear explanation of Labour’s position on this issue.

He said the Government’s proposals today on the customs union were full of contradictions and aimed at trying to paper over cracks between different Cabinet ministers.

But pressed on what Labour’s plan would be, he responded: “Well we certainly need a transitional period, we certainly need to give certainty to business. Our plan is to stand up for businesses and jobs and for the economy.”

On the Today show, presenter Justin Webb asked him what Labour’s plan was regarding the customs union.

“On day one at the end of March 2019, we need to keep the goods flowing across the border, don’t we, we can’t afford to have the motorways of Kent gridlocked,” responded the MP for Sefton Central.

He said Labour wanted a transitional arrangement with “access” to the customs union.

But he struggled to give a clear answer over the party’s long-term vision.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner has warned it would be a disaster to stay in the customs union as Britain could not strike new trade deals around the world.

However, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said remaining in the customs union should be kept on the table.

Pressed on Labour’s position long-term over the customs union, Mr Esterson replied: “That’s why you negotiate, isn’t it?”

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