Rebecca Long-Bailey suggests Labour would back freedom of movement to retain single market access after Brexit
A Labour frontbencher has claimed Britain would have to accept “some element” of free movement in order to retain “impediment-free” access to the single market after Brexit.
Rebecca Long-Bailey also said it was ultimately a "moot point" as to whether the UK remains a partial member of the single market after quitting the European Union.
Labour’s manifesto said that freedom of movement would come to an end after Brexit, but there has been fresh confusion over the party's stance since the election result on Thursday.
John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn both signalled that Labour would not rethink its view on single market membership, but fellow frontbencher Barry Gardiner indicated the party could review its position.
Speaking to the Today programme, Ms Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, said Labour was prioritising gaining “impediment-free access” to the single market to ensure businesses don’t face a “cliff-edge” post-Brexit.
When asked whether Labour was willing to allow the European Court of Justice to have power in the UK going forward or consider continuing with free movement to achieve its objectives, she replied:
“These are points for negotiation. I think we accept the fact that if we are going to have impediment-free access to the single market then there will have to be some element of free movement. I think we know that, the Conservative party know that.
“But the specific points are open to negotiation. In terms of justice, I think the Government was quite clear on the point that they said we will not be governed by Europe.
“But that doesn’t mean to say that we won’t have an agreement with Europe to comply with certain regulations that might be in the interests of business.”
Ms Long-Bailey said Labour wants to see a common set of regulations for UK businesses to trade with their EU counterparts post-Brexit, and that being inside or outside the single market for this was irrelevant.
“It’s a lot easier for business to be able to operate when it has a common set of regulations and we are calling for cooperation, whether that forms part of remaining part of the single market or having access to the single market is a moot point.”
Fleshing out Labour’s position, she added: “We simply want a deal that makes sure that businesses can operate as freely and easily as possible. So that’s why we’ve called for impediment-free access.
“So I was quite clear when I use the word impediment-free, I’m quite clear in the point that there will be a deal, that’s up for negotiation but we want to make sure that there’s a clear and level playing field for all British businesses so that they know what regulation they have to adhere to, they know how to operate within the European Union and all of the incongruences and the possible barriers that they might face will be removed for them.”
On Monday Mr Gardiner, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, said Theresa May was wrong to take the option of remaining members of the single market “off the table”.
But his comments appeared to put him at odds with Mr McDonnell, who said voters would view continued single market membership as "not respecting" the result of the EU referendum.