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16 July 2017

Top Labour MP admits she has no idea whether party wants to stay in the EU single market or not

LABOUR’S position on Brexit was thrown into fresh chaos today as a senior figure admitted the party does not know whether or not it wants Britain to stay in key institutions.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, said Labour’s policy is: “We want to have our cake and eat it.”

Labour's Rebecca Long-Bailey
Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey wouldn’t say if Labour want to stay in the single market
BBC

But she could not say if the party was hoping to keep the UK inside the single market or customs union after we quit the EU.

Labour says it supports a “jobs-first Brexit” but has promised to end free movement of people from Europe.

Today Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the party was ready to take power immediately and start negotiating with the EU on behalf of Britain.

But appearing on BBC1’s Sunday Politics, Ms Long-Bailey was unable to explain what Labour wants to get out of negotiations.

John McDonnell on BBC1
John McDonnell claimed that Labour is ready to take over Brexit negotiations
BBC

She said: “If we could negotiate membership of the single market while dealing with free movement and dealing with the other issues, then that would be great.

“But I think that’s unlikely, and we’ll have to be looking at a flexible approach that maintains the benefits we currently have in the single market while perhaps not being a member.

“We want to maintain the benefits that we currently have within the customs union.

“We want to have our cake and eat it, as do most parties in Westminster when it comes to being able to negotiate our own trade deals.

“We need to be flexible, we’ve got to not cut our nose off to spite our face.”

Signing up to the single market would mean accepting free immigration, while staying in the customs union would stop us striking trade deals around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn gave the EU's Brexit negotiator an Arsenal shirt when they met in Brussels today
Jeremy Corbyn gave the EU’s Brexit negotiator an Arsenal shirt when they met in Brussels this week
EPA

Ms Long-Bailey did not give any details about how Labour would persuade the EU to compromise on its key principles to allow us to stay in the two bodies.

She added: “We’ve got to be extremely flexible – we should be able to carry out and negotiate our own trade deals, and that’s the position we want to be in.

“You can’t do that in the customs union, and that’s why it’s a point for negotiation because we want to retain the benefits of the customs union while also being able to negotiate trade deals as we see fit.”

Asked again if she wanted to stay in the single market, she replied: “I am not saying that that option is completely off the table because stranger things have happened.”

Tories mocked the car-crash interview – junior minister James Cleverly joked: “Ohhhhhh, that makes Labour’s Brexit position sooooo much more clear.”

The Conservatives have pledged to withdraw from both the single market and customs union after Brexit.

Labour bosses have previously said that Britain must leave the single market – but they have never made their position entirely clear.

Tory ministers have their own split over how long the post-Brexit transition period should last for.


Philip Hammond said today that it should be years rather than months – but Liam Fox insisted it should be “very time-limited”.

The International Trade Secretary also told Sunday Politics that Britain must be free to sign new trade deals during the transition.

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