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UK Opposition Labour party sets out Brexit strategy


Press Trust of India London
Britains Opposition Labour Party today set out its Brexit strategy in an attempt to pile pressure on the Theresa May-led government to soften its stance on certain issues linked with the UK's exit from the EU.

In a major policy speech in Coventry, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said leaving the EU "does not inevitably spell doom for our country" as he backed staying within a customs union with the EU and pledged to allow the EU to continue to negotiate trade deals on behalf of the UK after Brexit.

He said this would avoid the need for a "hard border" in Northern Ireland and ensure free-flowing trade for business.

He committed to negotiating a "new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access".

Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections," he said.

The speech came days before British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to lay out her plans for Britains future relationship with the EU as a non-member state in a much-anticipated speech on Friday.

The prime minister has insisted that the UK would leave both the single market and the customs union, allowing it to negotiate its own post-Brexit trade deals.

"The government will not be joining a customs union. We want to have the freedom to sign our own trade deals and to reach out into the world," May's spokesperson said.

Corbyn sought to set the Labour party apart from the Tory stance.

"We will also seek to negotiate protections, clarifications or exemptions, where necessary, in relation to the privatisation and public service competition directives, state aid and procurement rules and the posted workers directive," Corbyn said.

"Every country that is geographically close to the EU without being an EU member state, whether it's Turkey, Switzerland, or Norway, has some sort of close relationship to the EU, some more advantageous than others," he said, adding that Britain will need a bespoke relationship of its own.

He said the "new relationship" he would negotiate with the EU would ensure Labour could deliver on its plans to nationalise public utilities, invest in industry and curb the outsourcing of public services, which some fear would have been incompatible with EU membership.

Labour has previously said it wants to retain the "benefits" of the single market and customs union after Brexit without saying how that would be achieved.

UK Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said on Sunday that while Britain may leave the customs union in March 2019 Labour would seek to negotiate a new treaty that will "do the work of the customs union".

Labour MP Frank Field, who backed Leave and said Corbyn was once more Eurosceptic than him, warned the Labour leader not to "rat" on the millions of Labour voters who backed Brexit in the referendum.

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First Published: Feb 26 2018 | 7:00 PM IST

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