Contrary to Labour claims, the EU27 could and would never accept that a non-Member State “jointly determines” an EU trade agreement with a third country. You are either a Member State or a third country. There is no halfway house.

• The Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner told Sophy Ridge on Sky News that holding a People’s Vote now would “divide” the country and not unite it.
• Gardiner also said that Labour would seek to negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU that would bring the country together, claiming that with a Labour Brexit, Britain would have some kind of veto over future EU trade deals.

Sky News

This really is total fantasy. There is zero (really, zero!) chance of the EU27 accepting “a trade policy in which we and the EU together would be able to determine the trade agreements that we then concluded.”

What Barry Gardiner is describing here when he says “We would have a Customs Union… in which each individual sovereign nation is able to determine whether a trade agreement that they conclude jointly with other countries should go ahead,” is called EU membership.

The claim that “... it’s perfectly possible under the EU’s Treaties to have a situation where the UK and the EU jointly determine whether a trade agreement with another country is beneficial,” is patently untrue. The autonomy of the European Union decision-making is central to the Treaties.

Agreements with third countries are done under Article 218 and 207 of the Lisbon Treaty, which set out the procedures for negotiating, agreeing and ratifying them.

Article 218 and 207 of the Lisbon Treaty / European Union

There is no provision for a non-Member State to jointly determine, with the EU, the content of an EU agreement with another third country, or whether it should be agreed. This is a matter for the EU, its Member States, and the European Parliament.

Moreover, what Gardiner is suggesting here would, on non-mixed agreements that are agreed by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) rather than Unanimity, be a situation where the UK has more power than an individual EU Member State over concluding EU agreements. Why would EU Members possibly agree to that?

It is hard to decide which would be more alarming — that the Labour frontbench actually believes this nonsense is possible, or that it knows it isn’t but is happy to adopt the Brexiters’ strategy of looking right into the camera and lying.

It is just so disappointing. At a point where the opposition should be calling out Brexiters’ and the Government’s lies and unicorns, and forging away out of this mess, they are instead just peddling their own, and not just on a Customs Union.

For those saying “Well Keir Starmer has been talking to Michel Barnier, so it must be possible”, here is an extract from Barnier’s statement to the European Parliament on 29 November 2018, putting, again, the autonomy of EU decision-making as a central plank of EU policy.

Michel Barnier’s statement to the European Parliament, 29 November 2018. / European Union

And for those saying that Barry Gardiner was only referring to a consultative mechanism like with non-EU EEA states, here’s Jeremy Corbyn himself saying in the Guardian that that arrangement would leave the UK “without a say”.🔷

Jeremy Corbyn: "Labour could do a better Brexit deal. Give us the chance." / The Guardian

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)

(Cover: Gif of Barry Gardiner on Sky News.)