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Labour confusion as Barry Gardiner suggests party could back single market membership

2 min read

Barry Gardiner has suggested that Labour could back the UK's continued membership of the single market after Brexit - a day after John McDonnell ruled it out.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary said Theresa May was wrong to take that option "off the table".

But his comments appeared to put him at odds with the Shadow Chancellor, who said voters would view continued single market membership as "not respecting" the result of the EU referendum.

Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, Mr Gardiner said: "We've said this in the manifesto, is we need those benefits and whether they’re through reformed membership of the single market and customs union or a new bespoke trading arrangement is actually secondary to achieving the benefits; that’s what we stated in our manifesto.

"What we’ve said is it’s an open question what we can get. What we criticised [Theresa May] for was taking single market membership off the table from the beginning, because it’s quite ironic; she was the one who said ‘you have to take certain things off the table’ and she said we should not take off the table a no deal outcome, which of course seemed crazy to most people.

"She has taken off the table membership of the single market, we’ve said let’s look at that, let’s see if it can be reformed; but the key thing is not to get hung up on membership of the single market, but to be assured of the benefits it can bring for the economy and for our jobs."

Speaking on ITV's Peston on Sunday yesterday, John McDonnell said Labour would not seek for the UK to remain members of the single market.

“I can’t see it even being on the table in the negotiations, I don’t think it’s feasible," he said. 

"But we’ve been clear all the way along, ours is a jobs-first Brexit, everything we can do to protect our economy. That must mean tariff-free access to the single market."

He added: “Let’s be clear, we’re respecting the decision of the referendum. We are democrats.

"I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum. What we’re saying very, very clearly… the contrast in this general election was here we had a Conservative party going for a race to the bottom Brexit, undermining our economy."

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