Labour would vote down Canada-style Brexit deal
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has said during a visit to Brussels that Labour would vote against the proposed EU-UK free trade deal that is now being backed by Michel Barnier and David Davis, leaving such an arrangement with scant hope of being passed by parliament.
The former cabinet ministers Davis and Boris Johnson and the EU’s chief negotiator have suggested in recent days that a Canada-style deal that avoids tariffs on imports but only minimises checks on imports rather than avoids them is the way forward.
But Starmer, speaking between meetings with key EU diplomats and officials including Barnier’s German deputy, Sabine Weyand, told the Guardian that while he agreed with the European commission and Tory Eurosceptic MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg that the Chequers proposals were dead, Labourwould not accept the alternative plan.
Theresa May’s central proposals of customs facilitation and a common rulebook on goods but not for services “cannot form the basis of a deal”, Starmer said.
It was therefore vital, he said, that May moved to support a deal that brought the UK further into the EU’s orbit, by negotiating a new customs union and signing up to EU acquis on both services and goods while accept the jurisdiction of a common court.
He said: “We have our six tests and [the free trade deal] wouldn’t meet them and I don’t think it would be approved by the Conservative party because you have the other wing who would be concerned about the distance between a Canada deal from where we are now.
“At the end, the central problem for the prime minister is always the same: she has a warring party behind her, and the two sides can’t agree sufficiently to allow her to get a deal through unless she goes for a customs union plus single market deal with shared regulations and institutions. That I think would have a majority in parliament.”
Starmer added: “Whatever the agreement – if there is one – it has to keep to the solemn commitment of no hard border with Northern Ireland. The only combination that will meet that commitment is a customs union with the EU and a single market deal with high alignment.”