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Labour rules out trying to keep Britain in EU single market

3 min read

Labour has ruled out seeking to preserve Britain’s membership of the EU single market despite calls for the Government to soften its Brexit stance following the general election.

John McDonnell said this morning that the option of remaining members of the trading area would not be on the negotiating table in talks with Brussels and his party would not rethink its stance.

Labour went into the general election campaign calling for the maximum possible access to the single market after Brexit, while accepting that free movement would end and Britain would no longer be members.

But with the Tories returning eight seats shy of a majority in an election held by Theresa May to strengthen her negotiating hand, some are calling for a rethink of the UK's negotiating stance.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed this claim earlier this morning, and Mr McDonnell confirmed that 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 told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

“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.”

And he continued: “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.

“We have always said it would be a jobs first-Brexit. It’s access to the single market on a tariff-free basis.”

Speaking this morning Mr Fallon said the Government’s Brexit view has not changed despite running a minority government where the chance of passing legislation becomes all the more precarious.

“The new Cabinet obviously will meet early next week. Our view of Brexit I don’t think has changed,” he said.

“We want a partnership with Europe, we want an agreement that maximises our access to the single market, comes to an arrangement on immigration, continues the security cooperation we already have with Europe.

“As I say a successful Brexit, an agreement that is in the interests of us but also is in the interests of Europe.”

He argued the Government has a “majority” in the Commons for their stance on Brexit.

“I think we have a majority for that, yes, I think everybody wants to see an agreement in the end that does respect what the British people voted for last year, makes sure that our cooperation with Europe continues, our trade with Europe continues, our security cooperation with Europe continues,” he said.

The Cabinet minister added: “The parties that wanted to frustrate the decision of the British people didn’t make any progress. The SNP lost seats, the Liberal Democrats didn’t make any process at all.”

Earlier George Osborne, the former chancellor, said the election outcome that will see the Tories rely on support from the DUP means that Mrs May’s claim that no deal is better than a bad Brexit deal is “off the table”.

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