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Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn declines to support plan to keep UK in single market

The Labour leader's spokesman said elements of the single market are 'problematic' for Mr Corbyn's plans for government

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 09 May 2018 14:35 BST
Can Brexit be reversed?

Jeremy Corbyn’s office has signalled that the Labour leader will not throw his weight behind a proposal to keep Britain in the single market after Brexit.

His spokesman said keeping the UK in the single market as it stands, could undermine Mr Corbyn’s plans to intervene in British industry and reverse privatisation if he wins power.

It came after Labour peers in the House of Lords defied Mr Corbyn’s will and voted for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to effectively keep the UK in the single market – through membership of the EEA and EFTA - setting up a Commons vote on the matter in coming weeks.

The Independent reported at the weekend that Tory rebel MPs now believe they have enough numbers to defeat the government in that vote, as long as Labour MPs also weigh in.

But speaking on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman was asked whether he would back the amendment when it comes to the Commons and said: “The EEA membership includes a number of different types of relationship, but it’s not what we are proposing.”

He went on: “We will be pressing the case in the Commons, as the leadership has done in the House of Lords, for a new relationship with the EU, a close relationship with the EU, that is based on a close relationship with the single market…we will try and unite people around that position, which we think is the right one to promote a Brexit which puts jobs and the economy first.”

Asked by The Independent which parts of Mr Corbyn’s proposed programme for government would be undermined by staying in the EEA, the spokesman said: “In his speech in Coventry earlier this year when he set out Labour’s position on Brexit in in these negotiations, he made clear that the new relationship we want with the single market needs to allow a Labour government to intervene, to promote jobs and investment in the country and have a strong public role in that.

Theresa May: 'We're leaving the single market... in certain ways access will be different to what it is now'

“There are a number of different parts of the existing single market rules which are problematic and we would like to see exemptions, clarifications or a negotiated change in relation to that relationship – including state aid rules, liberalisation [and the] privatisation of public services.”

There are a number of different parts of the existing single market rules which are problematic

Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman

He also brushed aside claims that Mr Corbyn’s approach could see him clash with a largely pro-European Labour membership, saying the party’s current approach had been approved at conference.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Labour’s Lord Alli tabled an amendment in the House of Lords, aimed at keeping the UK in the EEA, arguing it is essential to ensure Britain’s service based economy can still properly trade with Europe after Brexit.

Some 38 Labour peers and 17 Tories defied their leaderships to pass it, meaning Ms May must now defeat the amendment in the Commons if she is to pursue her goal of pulling out of the single market.

Conservative backbenchers have told The Independent they now have up to 15 MPs willing to rebel on the issue, ensuring the amendment passes through the Commons as long as Labour also backs it.

The EEA/EFTA route would allow the government to escape the European Court’s jurisdiction, but would mean the UK having, to a large extent, to accept the EU’s “four freedoms” – including freedom of movement.

But Tory rebels argue Britain would have more power than it currently does to impose restrictions on immigration, a driving motivation behind the Leave vote.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Wednesday: “We are disappointed by the vote last night.

“As I’ve said to you before, the legislation is intended to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interest of everybody in the UK.

“We will not accept attempts to use legislation to stop us taking back control of our money, our laws and our borders.”

Lords inflicted 13 defeats on the government, passing changes to Ms May’s Brexit bill, all of which the government has vowed to overturn in the Commons.

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