Owen Smith: Labour's position on Brexit is 'deepening and evolving'

Posted On: 
21st February 2018

A senior Labour frontbencher has said Jeremy Corbyn's position on Brexit is "deepening and evolving" 

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Remain during the EU rerferendum.
PA Images

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith said he wanted to see Labour commit to remaining in the single market and the customs union.

His comments are significant because he is a member of the Shadow Cabinet's Brexit sub-committee, which will ultimately decide Labour's policy on the issue.

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Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme, Mr Smith said his "absolute number one concern is maintaining the peace process in Northern Ireland", which he said means the UK must maintain tariff-free trade with the EU after Brexit.

Pushed on whether he would prefer Labour’s policy to be remaining in the single market and the customs union, he simply said: "Yes."

And asked if this put him at odds with the Labour leader, he said: "No, I think Jeremy’s position is evolving and deepening."

Mr Smith's comments came a day after Mr Corbyn dropped his biggest hint yet that Labour could end up backing membership of the single market after Brexit.

He also told a conference in London that Britain has to "have a customs union" with the EU once it leaves the bloc.

The Labour leader said 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 said.

"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 Ian Murray said: "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."