07/01/2018 16:06 GMT

Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn Accused Of 'Pathetic' Lack Of Leadership On Single Market

'It is unbelievable - and frankly, utterly pathetic - that on the single biggest issue facing the country Jeremy Corbyn has failed to show any leadership whatsoever.'

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “letting the Tories off the hook” and a “pathetic” lack of leadership after rejecting a cross-party invite to fight to stay in the single market. 

The SNP’s Ian Blackford said the Labour leader was failing millions of working families after he rebuffed his offer to attend a summit on blocking the Government from a Brexit that rips the UK out of the single market.

Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, is due to meet with the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party on Monday to discuss a common approach to the issue in the weeks ahead.

Corbyn declined an offer to take part, saying the initiative was based on a “flawed” assumption about the single market. The party has since called the summit “little more than a political gimmick”. 

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said Labour wants a Brexit deal which “retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union”, but does not support membership beyond a limited transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

In his letter to Blackford, Corbyn said: “Your proposed summit appears to be based on the flawed assumption that the single market is a membership club – it is not.

“We have consistently said that we are committed to negotiating to keep the benefits of the single market and securing the best possible deal for the whole of Britain, which protects our economy and the people of this country, whilst at the same time respecting the result of the referendum.”

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford 

Blackford warned that unless opposition parties were able to prevent the Government leaving the single market and the customs union, it would take a “wrecking ball” to the economy.

“With just over a year to go before the UK is set to leave the EU, it is now more important than ever that we have a united and effective opposition - holding the UK government to account, and doing everything within our power to prevent this Tory economic catastrophe,” he said.

“It is unbelievable - and frankly, utterly pathetic - that on the single biggest issue facing the country Jeremy Corbyn has failed to show any leadership whatsoever, and is now rejecting this crucial chance to build a cross-party coalition in the national interest.

“His absence from this meeting is deeply disappointing but it is not surprising given his absence from the EU referendum campaign and the national debate on Brexit ever since.”

Plaid Cymru’s Leader in Westminster Liz Saville Roberts also condemned the Labour leader.  

She said: “Mr Corbyn’s refusal to attend this important cross-party meeting is a matter of grave disappointment.

“By repeatedly failing to adopt a clear stance on continued membership of the single market and customs union, Mr Corbyn and his Labour party risk becoming complicity in a Tory hard Brexit. 

“Now is the time for Labour to work as a fully-functioning opposition party, and stop letting the Tories off the hook. Corbyn’s dithering and Labour’s self-centred obstinacy risk condoning an extreme Brexit which will hit our poorest communities hardest.

“The parliamentary arithmetic is there to change course and avoid economic disaster if only Labour showed some courage.”

A Labour party spokesman dismissed the cross-party meeting as “little more than a political gimmick”.

“We will work with all parties to hold this Government to account every step of the way and achieve a jobs-first Brexit that puts living standards and the economy first,” the spokesman said.