June 19, 2019
Business

Labour demands “full access” to Single Market after Brexit

Labour is to table a new amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, demanding the government ensure "full access" to the Single Market after Brexit.

The amendment, which is expected to be formally tabled tomorrow, calls on Theresa May to seek ongoing access with "no new impediments to trade and common rights, standards and protections as a minimum.” It comes just a day after the government confirmed the EU Withdrawal Bill, a key piece of legislation in the Brexit process, would be returning to the Commons for just one day of debate.

The new amendment will be debated alongside those voted for by the House of Lords on 12 June.

It comes on the same day Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his argument that the party was not seeking EEA membership, arguing he wants a better deal.

The contradiction was picked up by many commentators.

Henry Newman, director of think tank Open Europe and former adviser to Michael Gove, told City A.M.: "Labour's amendment is seeking something that's literally impossible.They know perfectly well that they could only achieve "full access to the internal market" of the EU with "no new impediments to trade" by keeping free movement, agreeing to allow the EU to shape our taxation and labour law, and signing up to rules which we had no ability to shape.

"But because it's opposition politics they can promise unicorns without worrying about having to deliver them"

But even his own MPs have pointed out this appears to conflict with the latest amendment.

Chuka Umunna, arch Remainer and supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: The only way of realising the objectives set out in the amendment, short of EU membership, is through the UK being part of the European Economic Area, as a minimum.

Like the Tory Government and hard Brexiters this amendment seeks 'access' to the EU's Single Market but this is nowhere near enough. What the overwhelming majority of Labour members and supporters want is so much more – to be part of the framework of protections for workers, consumers and the environment which being part of the European Economic Area uniquely offers to non-EU members.

“All the way through the passage of this Bill, the only amendments which have commanded support on both sides of the House and passed are cross party backbench ones. So, if we are serious about protecting full access to the internal market of the EU and ensuring no new impediments to trade, logic dictates Labour MPs should be whipped to support the cross party EEA amendment sent to us by the House of Lords.”

Those sentiments were shared by his colleagues on Twitter.

Fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie said: "While this is getting close to the EEA Single Market, Conservative rebel MPs are unlikely to support Labour frontbench in any way. In which case we need to put country first and vote together on Lords EEA amendment.

"To miss opportunity to win on this would be unforgivable."

Ben Bradshaw agreed. "Closer to the EEA Single Market, which is welcome, but Tory MPs won't vote for a Labour front bench amendment, which is why, if we're serious about averting hard Tory Brexit shambles, we must vote for the existing back-bench cross-party Lords amendment."

Labour MEP Catherine Stihler, who campaigns for Best for Britain, also attacked her party leader's position.

"The only way to secure the exact same benefits of the Single Market is for the UK to remain a member of the Single Market. We can't have our cake and eat it, and it's time for the party to be honest about this.

"The Norwegian model is not ideal, but nor is any deal where we're not at the top table. The best deal, for jobs and the economy, is being part of the EU. That's why the Labour Party should support a people's vote on the final Brexit deal with an option to remain."

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