By Stefan Matias Kløvning
UK – Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, recently stated that Jeremy Corbyn will change Labour’s policy on Brexit “within months” and pledge to get the UK to remain in the customs union of the European Union. This announcement followed a discussion he had with Corbyn and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer on the issue. Mr. Jones urged Labour to reject “the wrong option” of leaving the customs union, according to The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-jones-carwyn-jones-jeremy-corbyn-economically-daft-customs-union-labour-eu-withdrawal-bill-a8192006.html).
In defense of this position, he said that he doesn’t believe the British people “voted for a Brexit that would cause them to lose jobs, where people’s incomes would fall, so let’s have a sensible Brexit that’s good for the UK and people who live in the UK.” He proposed following the Norwegian model, in which the participant isn’t a direct member in the European Union, but still a member of the customs union and having access to the single market.
The position Jones builds on here follows a new analysis commissioned by the Welsh government which showed that a hard Brexit could cause the Welsh economy to decrease by up to 20%. He summarizes the rest of the reasoning of his position in the following way:
“Nobody can convince me or show any evidence to suggest we’d be better off outside the customs union. Europe is our main market: 90 per cent of our food and drink exports go there, 60 per cent of our overall exports go there and it’s on our doorsteps. You’re never going to replace that kind of market. Leaving the customs union is economically daft, it’s a step driven by ideology and nationalism, not by common sense and pragmatism.”
He later told The Independent that “All we want is a sensible Brexit, not one that is going [to] push us off the edge of a cliff.”
But many Brexiteers might object what the point is of having a Brexit without leaving the customs union and the Single market. A major concern with Labour is whether they even want to leave the Union at all. Most Labourers don’t. According to Stephen Bush (https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/brexit/2017/08/labour-s-new-brexit-policy-finally-offers-remainers-glimmer-hope) of NewStatesman, Labour “can agree on what words to say, but is divided over what they mean” on the Brexit issue. He said that most Labour members in the country are in the “more Europhile wing” of the party, which consists of, i.e., Jones, who wants to remain in the customs union and the single market, while there are also another group, called “Lexiteers”: Left-wingers who think it necessary to leave the union. Corbyn allegedly “feels a sense of obligation” to this faction of the party, as they backed his first leadership bid in 2015.
The problem then is that he can’t please this antithesis. With just a year remaining to Brexit, Corbyn must soon take a firm decision on his stance on the issue, and Jones hints what that is going to be.
According to Bush, however, are both Europhiles and Eurosceptics well-represented in Corbyn’s inner circle. He also claims that Corbyn “is more Eurosceptic than the Labour mainstream, but is happy to adopt a pro-European pose when necessary to secure his leadership and to defeat Theresa May.”