Keir Starmer: Labour would keep Britain in ‘form’ of customs union with EU
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said keeping the UK in a form of customs union with the EU can be a “possible end destination” for Labour.
The call comes a day after more than 30 of the party’s MPs, alongside MEPs, peers, trade union leaders and mayors released an open letter demanding Jeremy Corbyn change tact and back membership of the single market and customs union beyond Brexit.
Writing in The Times today, Mr Starmer said such a move would be subject to talks between the UK and the EU, the fourth round of which is set to kick off in Brussels later today.
He has previously backed Britain remaining within the single market and in a customs union with the EU during the transitional period, which is set to begin in March 2019.
He added that the party would take a “pragmatic approach” and would consider a range of options to secure a beneficial trading relationship with the bloc, including membership of the single market.
“Subject, of course, to negotiations, remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour,” he wrote.
“We are also flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal.
“No rash, ideological red lines preventing a sensible deal. No fantastical “blue sky” proposals. A pragmatic approach.”
The shadow minister also hit out at Theresa May over her landmark speech in Florence last week, which he said offered “very little”.
“The public have lost confidence that this government can deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. Labour are now the grown-ups in the room. Not acting for narrow political gain. But in the national interest,” he added.
Today’s meeting between the UK and EU’s top negotiators marks the first between the sides following the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier praised Mrs May’s “constructive spirit” over pledges made on a two-year post-Brexit implementation period, during which the UK would continue paying into EU coffers and trading inside the single market, while maintaining freedom of movement.
The latest talks are expected to hone in on areas which did not feature heavily in the speech however, such as the Irish border, the status of EU citizens already living in the UK and the future trade arrangements between both sides.
The negotiations come ahead of a meeting next month between EU leaders to decide on whether sufficient progress in those areas has been achieved before issues such as the future of the UK and EU’s bilateral trade relationship can progress.
Talks between the UK and Scottish governments are also due to resume with Holyrood’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Michael Russell due to meet First Secretary of State Damian Green to discuss fears about the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Ministers in Edinburgh have repeatedly branded the process of repatriating powers from Brussels back to Westminster’s as a “power grab”.
The UK government has previously said that Holyrood will be granted "significant" new powers after Brexit.