Labour will not campaign for Single Market membership

Shadow Chancellor risks party backlash by saying "access" to the EU's trading arrangements is good enough

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 26 September 2016 10:56
Comments

Labour will not campaign to keep Britain in the Single Market after Brexit, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said today.

Mr McDonnell risked fuelling many Labour MPs’ criticism that Jeremy Corbyn is lukewarm at best about the European Union by arguing instead for “access” to the trading arrangements.

He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We want access to the Single Market. We want the best deal that we can get.”

Challenged that access fell short of membership, Mr McDonnell said: “We don’t want to restrict ourselves at the moment in the discussions that we are having with our European colleagues.

“If we can get access to the Single Market, we can build upon the benefits of the EU, but then tackle some of the perceived disbenefits that made people vote for Brexit.”

The comments – made ahead of Mr McDonnell’s conference speech – appeared to conflict with Mr Corbyn’s statement yesterday that he was opposed to a ‘hard Brexit’.

Most observers define a ‘hard Brexit’ as leaving the Single Market, some describing “access” to it as a meaningless term, because almost any country can have access – but at a heavy price.

In the interview, Mr McDonnell also hit back at criticism that Mr Corbyn failed to campaign hard to keep Britain in the EU – arguing outright enthusiasm would have backfired.

He said: “If we went solely on a Europhile basis we never stood a chance, particularly in areas outside London and the South East that felt left behind in the economy overall.

“Our argument was Remain but reform, create a reform agenda. It was realistic. That was the feedback we were getting on the doorstep.

"We lost, actually, though I still think it was the right decision, because, as I say, large areas of the country voted for Brexit because they couldn't see a reform agenda that could change the EU.”

Mr McDonnell said the danger now was that the Government was alienating potential partners in creating a different EU and “doesn't seem to have a strategy”.

He added: “There was no fallback position prepared by David Cameron, and Theresa May, I think, hasn't been in the game at all.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in