Labour demands Government wins 'exact same' trade benefits for Brexit deal support

Posted On: 
26th March 2017

Labour will vote against the final Brexit deal unless the Government can negotiate arrangements securing the “exact same benefits” as the single market and customs union, Keir Starmer has said. 

Keir Starmer on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show
BBC iPlayer

The Shadow Brexit Secretary will make speech tomorrow setting six tests for Theresa May in the two-year negotiation window that will open when Article 50 is triggered on Wednesday.

The Labour leadership whipped MPs to support the start of the Brexit process but Mr Starmer said they would oppose the Government when Parliament votes on the final deal unless strict conditions were met.  

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One of the tests is that the UK should enjoy the same trading benefits as it currently does, even as it leaves the single market.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Starmer pointed out that Brexit Secretary David Davis had committed to achieving exactly that in the Commons.

“We’re not inside, I accept that; I do not accept that we can’t have the same benefits,” the Labour MP said.  

“Those words ‘exact same benefits’ are not my words. They’re in my test, but they’re taken from David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.

"When he was pressed on this in Parliament, he said he would deliver a comprehensive free trade agreement and a customs arrangement that delivered the exact same benefits as the single market and the customs union, so we’re holding him to that test.

“The Government can’t turn around now and say ‘this is unachievable’ because it was David Davis [who said that].”

He added: “If our tests are not met then we do not intend to support [in Commons vote] the deal the Government comes back with.”

Among the other conditions are a demand for the “fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities”, but that would not include free movement of people, Mr Starmer said.

“We are clear that immigration was part of the debate in the referendum and therefore there’s got to be change to the freedom of movement rules. So that has to go… It’s an EU rule, it will have to go so therefore there’s a blank piece of paper.”

On the prospect of a Brexit “divorce bill” – which EU figures have been touting at a cost of tens of billions of euros – Mr Starmer said the UK must “honour our obligations”. 

Jeremy Corbyn said "unfettered access" to the markets of other member states was "fundamental" for Labour, and he denied that the opposition was setting an impossible objective and would therefore try to block Brexit. 

“We’re not at the position of knowing what the deal is yet, so this is a pretty high level of speculation when we’re two years away from that particular vote," the Labour leader told ITV's Peston on Sunday.