Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan attacks Labour’s Brexit ‘omerta’ over rejoining EU customs union

Sadiq Khan has criticised the government’s “extreme hard Brexit”, while hitting out at the Labour’s Party “omerta”, or pact of silence, over the issue. 

Calling on his party to discuss potential economic reintegration with Brussels, the London mayor said it is time to have “the conversation” about meaningful alignment with the EU. 

Khan, who is seeking a third term in May’s mayoral election, has previously called for Britain to consider signing up again to the bloc’s customs union and economic single market.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly insisted that a Labour government will not seek to rejoin the single market or customs union if it is elected later this year. 

He has also ruled out a deal to re-establish freedom of movement as a “red line”.

Speaking at the Fabian Society conference in London this weekend, Khan said rejoining the EU’s economic alliance, which would ease trade with Europe, should be on the table when the current Brexit deal comes up for review in 2025.

He said: “I’m not saying today we should rejoin the EU. What I’m saying is that [shadow foreign secretary] David Lammy is onto something when he’s saying we should have a closer relationship with the European Union.”

He went on to criticise the “omerta” that means “you can’t talk about being close to the European Union, joining the single market, joining the customs union”.

The London mayor added that “the economic cost of this extreme hard Brexit is huge”.

It came after a study by Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the London mayor’s office, found that Brexit has already cost the UK economy £140 billion.

The study also suggested that Britain’s decision to leave the EU is set to leave Britain’s economy £311 billion worse off by the middle of the next decade.

Meanwhile, another senior Labour figure has said the EU will breathe a “sigh of relief” if his party wins the upcoming general election.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn has claimed told the Fabian Society conference: “Brexit has of course affected politics in the UK. But it’s also affected politics in the European Union.

“The EU is a bit tired of negotiating with Britain. They’ve got lots of other things on their plate.

“And we have to recognise that while the EU has loads of experience of negotiating agreements with countries coming towards it, never before has it had to do a deal … with a big country that’s walked out.

“Now I am a great believer in the healing qualities of time. And there is no doubt that the arrival of a Labour Government, if we win … will be greeted in the EU with a big and audible sigh of relief.”

The Leeds Central MP added: “I think eventually there is going to be a moment when we look at each other across the Channel and say ‘you know what, we’re still big and important trading partners, we’re still friends and allies, we are co-operating on foreign policy and security and we need to do more of that … so wouldn’t it make sense to have a closer relationship?’

“And why does this matter so much? Well, clearly it matters economically but there’s something else that is even more important, and that is building alliances in a dangerous world.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.