In a significant speech on Brexit earlier this week, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, backed the UK being in a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit. Setting out his position, Mr Corbyn argued that a comprehensive customs union would help avoid the need for a "hard border" in Northern Ireland and ensure free-flowing trade for business.
This intervention follows calls made by the CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, five weeks earlier in a speech at the University of Warwick where she set out businesses’ vision for a good Brexit deal. In her address to business leaders, Carolyn called for hard-headed economic assessments of the trade-offs facing the UK ahead of the second phase of the Brexit talks. This would ensure frictionless trade with the EU and protect jobs and living standards across the UK.
Responding to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, Carolyn stated that a comprehensive customs union is a ‘real world’ solution that has been called for by the CBI and thousands of trading businesses of all sizes and sectors across the UK.
Elsewhere, government ministers continued to give a series of speeches setting out their position on Brexit ahead of the crucial European Council summit on 22-23 March.
Answering to concerns in the devolved nations relating to the Great Repeal Bill, Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington MP, highlighted changes to a proposed Brexit law on the return of powers from Brussels that would strengthen and enhance devolution. Mr Lidington also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom – a key priority for CBI members in the Brexit negotiations.
This week also saw International Trade secretary, Liam Fox MP, call for an ambitious UK free trade policy post-Brexit. The CBI supports the UK’s global ambitions and continues to work with its members and government to develop ideas to boost exports to help businesses break into new markets and expand their international footprint.