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Fresh Labour splits as Wales boss Carwyn Jones backs remaining in Single Market

3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the single market has opened up a fresh rift in Labour with the Welsh First Minister insisting there is “no need” to leave the trading area as part of Brexit.

Mr Corbyn said yesterday being part of the single market was “dependent on membership of the EU”, and that the two institutions were “inextricably linked”.

Barry Gardiner, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, went on to warn the UK would be a “vassal state” if it pursued the so-called “Norway option” of being members of the European Economic Area.

That led Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who has been pressing the leadership to change tack on this issue, to highlight a number of non-EU countries who are also members of the single market.

And this morning Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister, said there was “no need to leave the single market” as long as the UK accepted the EU’s rules.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t accept that that’s [leaving the single market] necessary at all. I went to Norway in January; they are not members of the EU but they have almost full access to the single market.

“We don’t have to leave the EU and leave one of the world’s biggest markets at the same time. That’s an interpretation that’s been put on the referendum result by the current UK Government and that makes no sense at all.”

Mr Jones added: “You cannot be a member of the single market unless you’re a member of the EU. In other words, you cannot have a say over the rules of how the market operates unless you’re a member.

“We can’t be a member because we’d have to be a member of the EU to do it. That doesn’t mean we can’t participate in the single market. We wouldn’t control the rules but we’d have full and unfettered access...

“Let’s have a Brexit that’s sensible; not one that’s driven, essentially, by nationalists in London.”

Mr Umunna meanwhile argued the Tory, Ukip and Labour positions on Brexit were too close and that "clear red water" was required.

Mr Gardiner had argued that remaining in the single market would be to defy the will British electorate which voted for Brexit last summer.

He told Sky yesterday: “There are those people in the UK who would like to see us leave membership of the European Union but retain membership of the EEA, the European Economic Area.

“Now, I don’t subscribe to that because I think most of the political reasons that people wanted to leave the European Union would actually not be achieved by doing that.”

But Mr Jones said no politician had a “crystal ball” to know what was in people’s minds on 23 June last year. 

And Labour MP Wes Streeting also hit out at Mr Gardiner for arguing remaining a member of the customs union after Brexit would be a "disaster".

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