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Labour sister party in Northern Ireland urges its MPs to back single market membership

3 min read

Labour's sister party in Northern Ireland has called on its MPs to defy Jeremy Corbyn and vote for the UK to stay in the single market.

In a letter to all Labour MPs, SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna said they should support British membership of the European Economic Area in a crunch Commons vote later this month.

The move comes after 83 Labour peers rebelled against Mr Corbyn to support an amendment to the Government's flagship EU Withdrawal Bill which called for the UK to join Norway in the EEA, a move which would effectively keep Britain in the single market.

A spokesman for the Labour leader all-but confirmed yesterday that he would be whipping his MPs not to back the move.

But in her letter, Ms Hanna said EEA membership was the best way of avoiding a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as maintaining the peace process.

She said: "I urge you to have the courage that all of us here in Northern Ireland require you to have to protect our economic and political future.

"In doing so, you will go a long way in protecting the historic progress that has been made over so many years in Northern Ireland by ensuring that our peace accord remains intact. We believe your courage will be rewarded not only through the gratitude of citizens in Ireland, but also that the wider UK electorate will appreciate that you acted in the best interests of peace."

Ms Hanna added: "The SDLP calls for Labour to get off the fence and protect all of our interests by remaining in the single market. I have written to every MP in the Labour party, including Mr Corbyn, to tell them to use the opportunity to protect the interests of all peoples across these islands by backing membership of the single market.

"If Labour does not yet see the very seriousness of not aligning with the single market as well as the customs union, then the party needs to come take a good look at Northern Ireland. There’s simply no bluffing it – it’s time for decisive leadership and that means both the London government and the official opposition need to step up."

Mr Corbyn's spokesman said yesterday: "We’re trying to make the case for a Brexit that puts the economy and jobs and living standards first and to unite as much of the country on both sides of the Leave/Remain divide together in negotiating a jobs-first Brexit.

"The EEA membership includes a number of different types of relationship, but it’s not what we are proposing.

"We will be pressing the case in the Commons for a new relationship with the EU which is a new relationship with the single market that retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union and will try to unite people around that position."

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