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EU Withdrawal Corbyn: The political class must learn the lessons of Brexit and invest in left-behind communities

by CONRAD LANDIN in Coventry

INDUSTRIAL communities deserve better than Sports Direct in post-Brexit Britain, Jeremy Corbyn demanded today.

In a major policy speech on leaving the EU, the Labour leader said the referendum result should serve as a “lesson” to Britain’s political class.

His call for Britain to maintain a customs union with the European Union was welcomed by trade union leaders.

Mr Corbyn said Britain would need a “bespoke, negotiated deal of its own” after quitting. He said the country could negotiate an arrangement for free trading as Switzerland, Turkey and Norway have done in the past.

Saying PM Theresa May had “dithered and delayed” over negotiations, he argued: “The country’s still in the dark about what this divided government want out of Brexit.”

Labour would instead advocate a “new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.”

But Mr Corbyn added that he “would not countenance a deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others,” saying Labour would “seek to negotiate protections, clarifications or exemptions” to free Britain from the shackles of right-wing EU commission directives.

Mr Corbyn was asked in a question-and-answer session to cite examples of where Brussels legislation has held back progressive policies. He pointed out that the Royal Bank of Scotland had been forced to dispose of lucrative assets when it was effectively nationalised by Gordon Brown.

And while condemning the “phoney, jingoistic” rhetoric of Boris Johnson, the opposition leader said it was important to recognise why people had voted to leave. The anger that led to Brexit should not be seen independently from concerns that post-industrial communities have been neglected, he suggested.

“We are serious, very serious, about investing in every community in the country,” he said. “Surely the political class can learn a lesson from the result of the referendum. It’s that sense of anger — anger of the left-behind communities.

“We will not stand by and walk on the other side and let towns and cities die for the lack of investment.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady described the speech as a “welcome step forwards,” saying it had “exposed the threat to manufacturing jobs from the government’s red line on a customs union.”

GMB leader Tim Roache said: “By committing to a customs union, Labour is showing clear leadership that would safeguard our ports, transport firms and manufacturing sectors.”

But Trade Unionists Against the EU spokesman Brian Denny warned: “We have to be outside the constraints of endless EU policies that have prevented investments in industry.”

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