Labour MPs hit out at Jeremy Corbyn for 'taking single market membership off table'
Labour MPs have criticised Jeremy Corbyn for ruling out UK membership of the EU single market after Brexit and claiming remaining in the trade bloc was tantamount to staying in the EU.
The party’s leader is said to have been pounced on by frustrated pro-EU colleagues over the claim, with one MP citing the example of Norway, which is inside the trade area while outside the EU.
Mr Corbyn's comments to a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting come days after the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford savaged him as “absolutely pathetic” for refusing to back a cross-party effort to keep Britain in the bloc.
One MP told Sky News: "Jeremy said that when people voted to leave the EU, they voted to leave the single market [and that] single market membership requires us to be members of the EU."
Others backed up the account to the broadcaster, with another adding: "Corbyn again claimed that no country can be in the single market but outside the EU - clearly Norway needs to get in touch."
Meanwhile, arch-Europhile former shadow minister Chuka Umunna stormed out of the meeting early in exasperation.
A former Labour minister, who did not wish to be named, told Sky Mr Corbyn “needs to listen to the views of party members” on the issue, adding that “the single market is vital and he's wrong to take it off the table".
One MP told the Guardian: “The key thing is about keeping all the options on the table when it comes to the single market and customs union. It is clear from recent polling that an overwhelming majority of Labour members, supporters and voters believe this.”
However a senior party source told the paper: “The single market is not a membership club that can be joined so we seek through negotiation to retain the benefits of the single market.
“As he said in his letter back to Ian Blackford, the summit rests on the falsehood that the single market is a membership organisation which you can join, which it is not.
“Our approach for a jobs-first Brexit, which involves retaining the benefits of the single market, is through negotiation with the EU.”
Mr Corbyn also attacked Theresa May’s limited Cabinet reshuffle as “a pointless and lacklustre PR exercise”, adding that her “weak and struggling government is causing untold damage – and we need to replace it as soon as is possible”.