May’s Brexit ‘at odds’ with busi­ness Labour’s Starmer: Gov­ern­ment strat­egy threat­ens ‘just in time’ man­u­fac­tur­ing

Birmingham Post - - LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

LABOUR’S shadow Brexit sec­re­tary has ac­cused Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May of pur­su­ing a Brexit strat­egy “at odds with busi­ness”, as he warned em­ploy­ers were scared they would have to cut jobs or close plants.

Speak­ing to the Birm­ing­ham Post at Labour’s an­nual con­fer­ence in Liver­pool, Sir Keir Starmer said man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clud­ing car­mak­ers had told him they needed a Brexit deal that would al­low them to con­tinue im­port­ing parts from EU coun­tries.

He said: “Busi­nesses are say­ing to me loud and clear, we don’t want dis­rup­tion, we don’t want to move away from the model we’re op­er­at­ing.

“On the con­trary, they say, what can do you do pro­tect this model? Be­cause we don’t want to lose jobs, we don’t want to lose man­u­fac­tur­ing, we don’t want to move our fac­to­ries.”

Sir Keir high­lighted the threat to the ‘just in time’ method used by many ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers, which de­pends on the abil­ity to im­port parts across the EU with­out re­stric­tions.

Many of the parts come from sup­pli­ers in EU coun­tries and the sys­tem would grind to a halt if there were long checks at bor­ders.

He said he had met with “the best part of 1,000 busi­nesses” over the past two years, par­tic­u­larly man­u­fac­tur­ers.

He said: “Whether it’s the trains in the North East, some of the car­mak­ers, the pot­ter­ies in Stoke, the aero­space in­dus­try else­where, I’ve had long and con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions both with the work­force and with the man­age­ment.

“There’s a huge em­pha­sis on the im­por­tance of be­ing in a Cus­toms Union with the EU so that the ‘just in time’ man­u­fac­tur­ing model can be pre­served.

“But while Labour backs a cus­toms union with the EU af­ter Brexit, pre­vent­ing bor­der checks, the Gov­ern­ment was pur­su­ing a com­plex al­ter­na­tive scheme

“That is where the Prime Min­is­ter’s ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy is at odds with busi­ness.”

Sir Keir was greeted by cheers when from he told the con­fer­ence that one op­tion in any ref­er­en­dum could be to re­main in the EU.

Asked whether Labour could in­clude a com­mit­ment to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum in a fu­ture gen­eral elec­tion man­i­festo, he told the Post it was too soon to say.

“From time im­memo­rial the main par­ties have never said in ad­vance of draw­ing up their man­i­festo what’s go­ing to be in their man­i­festo, be­cause none of us know the cir­cum­stances we are go­ing to find our­selves in.”

Re­fer­ring to the cur­rent planned Brexit date of March 29 next year, he said: “We don’t know when the elec­tion’s go­ing to be. If there’s an elec­tion be­fore March then there may be cer­tain things that go in the man­i­festo that can’t go in af­ter March.

“But that’s not a fea­ture of this par­tic­u­lar meet­ing.

“I think you’ll find over time par­ties very, very rarely say in ad­vance of a gen­eral elec­tion pre­cisely what’s go­ing to go in their man­i­festo.”

> Jaguar’s Cas­tle Bromwich plant in Birm­ing­ham has gone to a three-day week

> Sir Keir Starmer

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