Jeremy Corbyn drops biggest hint yet that Labour could back single market membership after Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn today left the door open to a change in Labour’s Brexit position by suggesting the UK could yet end up in the single market.
Mr Corbyn also said that Britain has to "have a customs union" with the EU after Brexit.
He has previously ruled out the UK remaining in the trading bloc, saying repeatedly that single market membership is contingent on being in the EU.
Just last month the Labour leader said the idea of staying in the single market was “based on the flawed assumption that the single market is a membership club”.
But speaking this afternoon he signalled a possible change of tack by saying non-EU countries could not “automatically” join the single market - suggesting they can if they wish.
"We have to have access to European markets, we have to have a customs union that makes sure we can continue that trade, particularly between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that is key to it," he told an audience at the EEF manufacturing conference in London.
"Being a member of the single market is automatic if you’re in the EU, if you’re not in the EU you’re not automatically a member of it.
Labour MP Wes Streeting welcomed Mr Corbyn’s apparent change of heart and urged him to change his party’s policy on Brexit.
Fellow Labour MP Ian Murray, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign group, added: “Any shift in Jeremy Corbyn’s position towards resisting the Government’s plans for a hard and reckless Brexit is welcome. But we need and deserve clarity.
“It’s becoming clearer by the day that the least worst option in leaving the EU is the single market and customs union and Jeremy Corbyn needs to take that option as soon as possible”.
Yesterday the leader of the SDLP, Labour's sister party in Northern Ireland, called on Mr Corbyn to support the UK staying a full member of the single market and customs union.
In a letter to the Labour leader, Colum Eastwood that a hard Brexit has the “potential to dismantle the architecture” of the peace process in the province.
Mr Corbyn was speaking after delivering a speech in which he vowed that a Labour government would make the City of London "the servant of industry, not the masters of all".
He said: "There can be no rebalancing of our distorted, sluggish and unequal economy without taking on the power of finance.
"For 40 years, deregulated finance has progressively become more powerful.
"Its dominance over industry, obvious and destructive; its control of politics, pernicious and undemocratic."