Parliament has its say on Customs Union

Today in Parliament a vital debate took place on the UK’s future customs union relationship with the European Union. Although it was disappointing that today’s motion was not a binding one, the debate offered parliamentarians from across the House the opportunity to make the case for a customs union deal post-Brexit.

Standing at 64%, I am proud to represent a constituency that voted so overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Despite this, I fully accept the result of the referendum and the debate has now rightfully moved onto the manner in which we leave.

Along with the vast majority of Labour front and backbench MPs - as well as a number of Conservative backbenchers - I strongly support the calls for the UK to enter a customs agreement with the EU following Brexit. A comprehensive EU-UK customs agreement ensures there are no tariffs or barriers to trade as well as ensuring there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

44% of our exports are to EU countries and 50% of our imports come from the EU. Therefore, it is of interest to both the EU and the UK that trade is not impeded and goods will continue to flow freely. The Government has stated that they want our future relationship with the EU to be as “tariff-free as possible”; I, therefore, find it perplexing that their aim for doing so is by dismissing a customs union agreement out of hand.

The Brexit Secretary David Davis recently ruled out extending our membership of the customs union beyond the 21-month transition period. An even more startling admission from Davis is his insistence that this hugely significant issue can be resolved as late as October of this year. These revelations are reckless and only serve to weaken the negotiating position of the UK as Brexit Day fast approaches.

This month we celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement. It was a seminal moment in world politics and the achievements of those who helped create it have been and will continue to be lauded for generations to come. Yet it seems even this monumental agreement in the name of peace and security is not safe from the hard-right Brexit ideologues inside and outside of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. There is a total absence in the discourse of the consequences for the border on the island of Ireland from those who would drag the UK out of the EU with no deal.

The Government has already been defeated three times in the House of Lords on Brexit legislation, most recently on the customs union. The Government also suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Commons last December, where MPs voted for Parliament to have a final say on the negotiated Brexit deal.

The great irony is that those hardline Brexiteers who vehemently called for “taking back control” would quite happily see parliament sidelined in what is surely the most defining piece of legislation we have seen in generations. I will continue to make calls for Parliament to have a say in the Brexit process and to ensure the best possible outcome for the UK and my constituents.

Jared O'Mara