Britain’s main opposition party is set to announce a policy shift which opens the possibility of the country staying in the European Union’s single market and customs union beyond 2019 as part of a “soft” Brexit, a Labour spokesman says.
The spokesman said the Labour Party would propose the same “basic terms” as Britain’s current relationship with the EU during a transition period following Brexit in 2019 and after that for all options to be open.
His comments confirmed reports in The Guardian which quoted shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who backed “continued membership of the EU single market beyond March 2019”.
The move is an attempt to offer a clear alternative to the Brexit currently proposed by UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government.
It comes after months of uncertainty and division on Labour’s position.
“We will always put jobs and the economy first,” Mr Starmer told The Guardian.
“That means remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour, but that must be subject to negotiations.
“It also means that Labour is flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal.”
The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, would also “leave open the option of the UK remaining a member of the customs union and single market for good, beyond the end of the transitional period”, but only if Labour could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules.
The next round of Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK will be held in Brussels on Monday. (Reuters: Neil Hall)
Ms May’s attempts to settle on a position and start negotiating Brexit have been hampered by infighting in her own party following a botched early general election in June in which she lost her parliamentary majority.
Her position has been weakened and many believe she is unlikely to see out a full parliamentary term, although it is unclear who might replace her.
News of the opposition party’s position comes ahead of the third round of Brexit negotiations between Britain and the UK in Brussels on Monday.
Brexit minister David Davis will call on the EU to be more flexible in its approach at the start of negotiations with the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
A Government source said Britain would point to the papers it has published over the past two weeks on both the future relationship and the divorce to show how officials have been working “diligently to inform the negotiations”.