Jeremy Corbyn has finally come clean over his views on Brexit.
In a speech launching his plans to boost British manufacturing, the Labour leader made the extraordinary claim that there has already been a economic ‘benefit’ of Brexit.
The address, which will outrage most Labour voters and MPs, also echoed Donald Trump’s protectionist policies by demanding Britain looks inward when it comes to industry.
During the speech, in Birmingham, he said: ‘Our exporters should be able to take proper advantage of the one benefit to them that Brexit has already brought – a more competitive pound.
‘After the EU referendum result, the pound became more competitive and that should have helped our exporters. But they are being sold out by a lack of a Conservative government industrial plan, which has left our economy far too reliant on imports.’
After the referendum the pound went into free fall wiping billions off the economy.
Speaking to the EEF manufacturers union he added: ‘For the last 40 years, a magical kind of thinking has dominated the way Britain is run. We’ve been told that it’s good – advanced even – for our country to manufacture less and less and instead rely on cheap labour from abroad to produce imports, while we focus on the City of London and the finance sector.
‘A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of our workers and any hope of secure well-paid jobs from a generation of our young people.
‘It must be our job in government to reprogramme our economy so that it stops working for the few and begins working for the many. That is why we will build things here again that for too long have been built abroad because we have failed to invest.’
But Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, was not impressed.
He said: ‘Protectionism, it seems, is back in fashion. For all the criticism of America’s current approach to trade in this speech, the proposals of subsidies and ‘buying British’ are just as protectionist as tariffs.
‘While Labour’s Brexit position recognises the value of some kind of customs union with the EU for manufacturing, there is little understanding of how crucial imports are for that sector. Our trade balance should not be treated as a zero-sum game that governments can or should try to control.
‘Britain has many fantastic manufacturing firms, but the fetishisation of factories and production lines over all other parts of the economy is misguided. We should not be ashamed of our world-class creative, digital and professional services.
‘While our members are keen to see a long-term industrial strategy adopted by all parties, the emphasis must be on creating the conditions for growth, not government dragging the economy in its preferred direction.
‘Public procurement processes certainly have room for improvement, but the overriding aim must be ensuring that these contracts are delivered with the right balance of quality and cost. Moves to shut out foreign companies and investors cut against efforts to build our reputation as an open and outward-looking country, and could throw a spanner in the works of negotiations with the EU.
‘Protectionism is not the way forward for post-Brexit Britain. Attempts to shape the economy according to an idealised view are prone to failure. Instead, politicians must recognise the benefits for everyone of open, liberal markets, and work with businesses of all sectors to address the issues that are thrown up in terms of skills shortages, infrastructure failings and regional imbalances.’