Labour has put forward a fresh plan to tie the UK to the EU’s Single Market after Brexit in a bid to unite Remain MPs in the Commons.
The party has unveiled an amendment to future Brexit-related legislation that would ensure the UK had shared minimum standards, rights and protections with the EU.
It would also call for shared “UK-EU institutions” – although there was no explanation as to what they would be.
The move would mean the UK having to follow Brussels rules, potentially including on free movement of people.
The announcement comes as pro-EU Labour MPs are becoming increasingly frustrated at Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to back plans to keep the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA) when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons next Tuesday.
The party is set to whip its MPs to abstain on a rebel EEA amendment that was passed by the House of Lords last month, when scores of Labour peers including Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandelson backed the proposal.
Announcing Labour’s new plan, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “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.”
No sooner had the amendment been announced than pro-EU Labour MPs piled in to criticise the plan.
Former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie told HuffPost UK: “Labour members up and down the country will be aghast that Jeremy Corbyn is going to bail out Theresa May next week, just as we have Tory rebels ready to join us on EEA.”
Chuka Umunna, supporter of the Open Britain campaign, 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.”
He added: “All the way through the passage of this Bill, the only amendments which have commanded support on both sides of the House and passed are cross party backbench ones.
“So, if we are serious about ‘protecting full access to the internal market of the EU’ and ensuring ‘no new impediments to trade’, logic dictates Labour MPs should be whipped to support the cross-party EEA amendment sent to us by the House of Lords.”
Brexit Department Minister Suella Braverman MP said: “Labour have shattered their promise to respect the referendum result – this amendment means accepting free movement and continuing to follow EU rules with absolutely no say in them, which is the worst of all worlds.”
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