WATCH: Labour frontbenchers lay out soft Brexit vision
A host of senior shadow ministers have said Britain must follow a ‘soft Brexit’ by retaining full access to and the benefits of the single market and customs union.
Keir Starmer said the deal struck between Theresa May and Brussels on Friday was the “right thing” in terms of keeping close ties to the bloc after the UK quits.
When asked whether the agreement means the UK will be linked with the single market “in perpetuity”, the Shadow Brexit Secretary agreed, before adding: “And I think that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that.”
“What are the benefits of the single market and the customs union? They are no tariffs and they are alignment of regulations and standards and that means that for goods and services we can trade successfully in the future. That’s what we want,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
“The way we’ve put it is that we would start with viable options, staying in a customs union and a single market variant which means full participation in the single market.”
And he said the party would consider continuing to pay into European coffers in order to strike “a Norway deal for the 21st century” – with a new treaty outlining full access to the single market and customs union.
Mr Starmer said it remained to be negotiated whether Britain would retain full control of its borders under such a move.
Norway, which is a member of the single market but outside the EU, must adhere to free movement between itself and Europe as part of the trading bloc’s conditions.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Britain does not “need to go a long way” from its current arrangement in order to reshape its future trade policy.
“We would always have prioritised the economy and trade when it came to negotiations and people should be in no doubt, it would be economically ridiculous to march off into the middle of the Atlantic and turn our backs on the European Union,” she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.
She added: "So in order to be able to go into deals with them we would need to have the same rules when it came to the exporting of carrots or anything else.
“If you want to export vacuum cleaners to Europe, they need to have the same safety standards to the rest of Europe.
"Nobody wants environmental controls, employment controls, all of these different things to be less in Britain than elsewhere in Europe, well, some Tories do, but we don’t and we’re quite clear about that."
Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey insisted Labour’s plans were to remain in a single market and a customs union, but did not rule out joining the existing blocs.
“This is a negotiation and we want to make sure all options are on the table,” she told 5Live's Pienaar's Politics.
“Our end destination is we have the same benefits as the single market and the customs union.
She added: “We don’t want to cut our nose to spite our face. We don’t want to lose the benefits of the EU to secure trade deals. We want to have both.
“Ultimately as part of the Brexit negotiation, we must retain the benefits we have in the single market and customs union."