David Miliband has warned Jeremy Corbyn not to be the “midwife” to a hard Brexit.
The former Labour foreign secretary will share a stage on Monday with former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and the Tory chair of the Commons Treasury committee Nicky Morgan to urge MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal with Brussels if it risks damaging the UK economy.
Reports have suggested the prime minister is braced to drop her favoured plan for a customs union with Europe amid pressure from hardliners in her cabinet.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Miliband told the Labour leader not to back the government’s plan to leave the single market.
“The warning for Jeremy Corbyn is if he is not very careful he will be the midwife of a hard Brexit that threatens the living standards of the very people he says he wants to stand up to represent,” he said.
“The single market isn’t just about the trade in good and services it’s also about environmental regulations, it’s also about employee rights.”
Corbyn has backed keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. But last week he ordered his peers to vote against a move to keep Britain in the single market via membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).
May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ will meet today amid deep splits over what the UK’s position on the customs union should be.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt this morning warned Boris Johnson that he is in danger of undermining Britain’s position in the Brexit negotiations with his criticism of the government’s proposals.
Hunt said the EU side would seize upon divisions in the ranks of ministers in the ongoing talks in Brussels.
His comments came after the foreign secretary branded proposals for a “customs partnership” with the EU – thought to be May’s favoured option – “crazy”.
“I do think that it is important that we have these debates in private. Not just because of collective responsibility, which is what democracy depends on, but also because this is a negotiation. On the EU side, if they see divisions in the open, they will exploit that,” Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I actually think he (Mr Johnson) has a very important role to play in the Government and he is the architect of the whole Brexit campaign and we are listening to what he says and we are doing what he wants.
“But I think we have to recognise that we are not the only people who read the papers in Britain and we need to give Theresa May some space.
“If we are going to have these lively debates, we should have them in private because that will strengthen Theresa May’s negotiating hand.”
Asked if his message to Johnson was to “belt up”, Mr Hunt said: “You could say that. I’d say he is a marvellous Foreign Secretary but let’s work as a team.”
On Sunday, Environment Secretary Michael Gove joined Johnson in publicly criticising the customs partnership option with the EU that would see the UK collect tariffs for Brussels.
The alternative model known as maximum facilitation, or “max fac”, would rely on new technology and trusted trader schemes.
With the top team divided, the prime minister’s former effective deputy, Damian Green, suggested Britain may have to stay in the current customs union longer than planned by extending the transition period in order to find a way forward – an idea arch Brexiteers have continually rejected.