• Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have ruled out staying in EU single market
  • But shadow minister Barry Gardiner has suggested it should not be off the table
  • The Tory government says Britain must leave single market to curb immigration
  • Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also suggests staying in should be an option

James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested the UK could keep 'reformed membership' of the single market

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested the UK could keep 'reformed membership' of the single market

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested the UK could keep ‘reformed membership’ of the single market

Labour frontbenchers have clashed over whether Britain could stay in the EU single market – in a sign of the major battles to come about Brexit.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner risked inflaming tensions over the issue by suggesting the UK could keep ‘reformed membership’.

The comment reflects the hopes of significant numbers of pro-EU Labour MPs.

But others warn that it will be impossible to remain inside the single market without accepting free movement – pointing out that high immigration was a key factor in the Brexit vote last year. 

Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell appeared to make clear yesterday that remaining in the single market was off the table.

Asked if he was clear that Brexit would mean leaving the bloc, Mr Corbyn told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘Absolutely.’

Mr McDonnell told ITV’s Peston programme: ‘I don’t think it’s feasible.’

Asked to confirm this in an interview this morning, Mr Gardiner struck a significantly different tone.

‘What we’ve said is that we need those benefits, and whether they’re achieved through reformed membership of the the single market and the customs union, or through a new, bespoke trading arrangement, is actually secondary to achieving the benefits,’ he said.

Mr Gardiner went on: ‘It’s an open question as to what we can get. What we criticised (Theresa May) for doing is taking membership of the single market off the table right from the beginning.

‘It’s quite ironic that she was the one who said you had to take certain things off the table, and she said we should not take off the table a no-deal outcome, which seemed crazy to most people.

‘But she has taken off the table membership of the single market. We’ve said let’s look at that and see if it can be reformed.’

Mr Gardiner later attempted to backtrack, saying single market membership was unlikely to continue.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer muddied the water further by insisting the Government was wrong to take the option off the table.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘What we criticised the government for was simply sweeping options off the table before they even started the negotiations.’

He added: ‘It’s clear from the outcome of the referendum that so far as the UK is concerned there’s got to be some change to freedom-of-movement rules … We would have to negotiate that.

‘It may be that we could tighten it so that it only applies in relation to workers and to families.’ 

The apparent mismatch comes as the inconclusive election result threatens to throw the Brexit process into confusion.

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured leaving his London home, has previously refused to say immigration should come down - but said free movement is likely to end

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured leaving his London home, has previously refused to say immigration should come down - but said free movement is likely to end

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured leaving his London home, has previously refused to say immigration should come down – but said free movement is likely to end

Shadow chancellor john McDonnell risked inflaming Labour's own tensions on the European issue yesterday by saying the UK could not stay in the single market

Shadow chancellor john McDonnell risked inflaming Labour's own tensions on the European issue yesterday by saying the UK could not stay in the single market

Shadow chancellor john McDonnell risked inflaming Labour’s own tensions on the European issue yesterday by saying the UK could not stay in the single market

Asked if he was clear that Brexit would mean leaving the bloc, Mr Corbyn told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'Absolutely.'

Asked if he was clear that Brexit would mean leaving the bloc, Mr Corbyn told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'Absolutely.'

Asked if he was clear that Brexit would mean leaving the bloc, Mr Corbyn told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘Absolutely.’

Talks with the EU are due to begin next week – with Theresa May struggling to reestablish her authority after the Tories lost their overall majority in the election.

Mr Davis reiterated today that the government remains committed to quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union. 

‘We’ve made pretty plain what we want to do,’ Davis told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

‘It’s outside the Single Market but with access. It’s outside the Customs Union, but with agreement. It’s taking back control of our laws and borders.

‘Those things are fundamental and we didn’t just pull them out of the air. We spent 10 months devising that strategy.’

He added that Labour’s position on Brexit in its manifesto was ‘very similar to ours’.

He said if shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer ‘or frankly anybody in the House of Commons’ had ideas on how to handle the talks, he would ‘take it on board’.

‘But it’s got to work, that’s the point,’ he said.

‘This is not a piece of political gamesmanship, it’s got to work, it’s got to actually deliver on what the people asked for which is control of the borders, control of laws, control of money and it’s got to deliver a decent economic outcome and protect security.’

Mr Davis reiterated today that the government remains committed to quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union

Mr Davis reiterated today that the government remains committed to quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union

Mr Davis reiterated today that the government remains committed to quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union

 

 

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