Labour has clarified its position on Brexit after Jeremy Corbyn appeared to suggest he was “open” to the United Kingdom remaining in the single market permanently after Brexit.
The Labour leader told BBC Radio 4′s World at One programme on Monday afternoon the UK needed a trading relationship with the EU “whether that is formally within the single market or that is an agreement to trade within the single market”.
He added: “We want a relationship which allows us to trade within the single market.
“Whether that is formal membership, which is only possible, I believe, if you are actually a member of the EU, or whether it is an agreed trading relationship, is open for discussion.”
Corbyn’s intervention was read by some as a switch in position from the summer, when he said “yes” the UK would have to leave the single market after Brexit as it was “inextricably linked” to EU membership.
However a spokesman for the Labour leader said: “Our position hasn’t changed.
“We won’t be ‘members’ of the single market after the transition. We want to achieve full tariff free access to the single market.
“That could be achieved by a new relationship with the Single Market or a bespoke trade deal with the EU, which was what Jeremy was referring to.”
Norway is a member of the single market but is not a member of the EU.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Kier Starmer, has previously said the UK should remain a member of the single market and customs union for a transitional period after Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019.
The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, today said the UK would be best served by remaining a member of the single market beyond the transition period.
This evening MPs will vote after midnight on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to undo 1972 European Communities Act which took the UK into the European Economic Community.
The crucial piece of Brexit legislation will transpose existing EU laws into British law.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said this morning that if opposition parties successfully vote down the Bill it will lead to a “completely chaotic” and “disorderly” start to the Brexit process. “We need to get this great ship launched,” he said.
But Labour has accused ministers of using the Bill to stage a enormous “power-grab” as it hands them greater powers to change laws without parliamentary scrutiny.
Corbyn has ordered his MPs to vote against the Bill but may face a small rebellion.