Labour Brexiteers hit back at party leadership on single market membership plan
Pro-Brexit Labour MPs have hit out over the party’s call to remain in the single market for several years the UK quits the European Union – and possibly permanently.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer clarified Labour’s stance with an article yesterday in which he called for customs union and single market membership to continue for the transition phase, when the UK would “abide by the common rules”.
He also opened the door to Labour backing the UK staying in the single market permanently – if the European Union was willing to make a concession on the free movement of people.
The stance was welcomed by many Labour MPs, but the leadership is still under pressure from those who want the party to adopt a stance in favour of a ‘hard Brexit’ and those who want the party to pledge unambiguously to keep the UK in the single market.
Labour Brexiteer John Mann told The Guardian: “There are a lot of ladders being laid [by the shadow cabinet] to the continent and they require a clearly defined immigration policy to remain credible.”
An unnamed MP told the newspaper there was “a real concern that we have misled voters”, after the party’s manifesto said free movement would end.
And a third added: “This is a disaster in northern towns where we got Ukip’s vote by backing Brexit and immigration controls as soon as possible, not by hoping they might come through in the future.”
Frank Field, another pro-Brexit Labour MP, said Labour could get a “smack in the eye” from the electorate.
“We mustn’t be beguiled by wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he told the i newspaper.
The majority of Labour MPs are Remainers, and most of their constituencies voted to Leave.
“They’ve already risen from their political death-beds once, and they need to remain off their political death-beds by respecting the vote of their constituencies, rather than going for any tricks…
“The advantage Mrs May has is the country knows she’s leaving. Our danger is that the country will think we’re up to tricks.”
Several pro-Remain Labour MPs backed a new campaign urging the party to commit unambiguously to continued membership of the single market.
Former Shadow Cabinet minister Heidi Alexander said Labour should be pushing to remain in the European Economic Area “full stop”.