Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary says he believes this week’s deal with the EU means the UK will be linked with the single market “in perpetuity”.
Labour supports keeping the closest possible trading ties with the European Union after Brexit and will lobby Prime Minister Theresa May to stick to that, the party’s Brexit policy chief Sir Keir Starmer said on Sunday.
Sir Keir said: “What are the benefits of the single market and the customs union? They are no tariffs and they are alignment of regulations and standards and that means that for goods and services we can trade successfully in the future. That’s what we want.”
Sir Keir has consistently said Labour would seek a deal that “retains the benefits” of single market and customs union membership, a position that would mean maintaining free movement of people from other EU countries.
Asked about this, Sir Keir said he favored a system of “easy movement” for EU nationals.
“The end of free movement doesn’t mean no movement,” he said. “Of course, we would want people to come from the EU to work here, we would want people who are here to go to work in the EU.”
He said Labour’s policy would be to “stay aligned” to the EU after Brexit, which could include making payments to the EU budget, as Norway does.
Labour has previously been criticized for appearing divided on the issue of the future relationship with the EU. Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner described continued single market and customs union membership post Brexit as akin to becoming a “vassal state” of the EU.
Ms. May clinched a last-minute deal on Friday after a fraught few days in which an earlier agreement seemed to have been reached before the DUP stepped in to veto it.
She pledged that the entire UK would “maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union”, where they applied to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Though the Prime Minister later said the UK would leave both the customs union and single market, EU figures said it was “hard to reconcile” that aim with the agreement to avoid a hard border.