Today Labour has tabled an amendment to Brexit legislation calling on the government to negotiate a Brexit deal that would allow “full access” to the EU’s single market.
Labour’s new amendment is being touted as an alternative to the European Economic Area amendment, which was recently passed in the House of Lords and will be presented to the Commons on Tuesday 12th June.
The single market amendment is seen as an attempt both to see off Labour rebels intending to vote for the EEA amendment and defeat the government in a key vote. It is thought likely that Labour MPs will still be whipped to abstain on the EEA.
Labour has tabled a range of new amendments designed to force Tory ministers to deliver full access to the EU’s single market, guarantee common minimum standards and rights, share UK-EU institutions and regulations, and block any new obstacles to trade.
Labour’s position – and its recent shift to advocating membership of a new UK-EU customs union – is supposed to meet Keir Starmer’s six tests for Brexit.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary last year set out a range of tests that Theresa May’s deal would have to meet for Labour to vote it through in the Commons, including the “exact same benefits” provided by single market and customs union membership.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “Labour will only accept a Brexit deal that delivers the benefits of the single market and protects jobs and living standards. Unlike the Tories, Labour will not sacrifice jobs and the economy in the pursuit of a reckless and extreme interpretation of the referendum result.
“Existing single market agreements that the EU has negotiated with third countries, including Norway, are bespoke deals negotiated with the EU to serve the best interests of those countries. We need to learn from them and negotiate our own more ambitious agreement, which serves our economic interests and which prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland.
“Two years on from the referendum it is clear that the government has no plan for how it will protect jobs and the economy, and guarantee no hard border in Northern Ireland.
“Labour’s amendment, along with a commitment to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union with the EU, is a strong and balanced package that would retain the benefits of the single market. Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and vote on it.”
But Labour MPs who have vowed to support the EEA amendment are unlikely to be deterred.
Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of Open Britain, said: “The only way of realising the objectives set out in the amendment, short of EU membership, is through the UK being part of the European Economic Area, as a minimum.”
Describing Labour’s new single market access amendment as a “wrecking amendment”, Progress director Richard Angell commented: “The irony that Corbyn’s frontbench have come up with a ‘third way’ on the single market – neither in favour or against is not lost. It’s a sign they are getting worried about a backlash from the pro-single market Labour membership but too clever by half.”
“To get the ‘exact same benefits of the single market’ you need to be in the EEA,” he added.