Jeremy Corbyn calls for UK to retain 'full access' to EU single market

Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament

Jeremy Corbyn will call for the UK to retain “full access” to the European single market on Tuesday as he seeks to clarify Labour’s position on Brexit.

The party’s leader will tell delegates at the TUC conference that his post-Brexit vision is in stark contrast to the Conservatives who want to create a “Shangri-La for bosses and bankers”.

Speaking in Brighton on Tuesday, he will say: “Labour respects the referendum result but we want a jobs-first Brexit that guarantees full access to the European single market as part of a new trade agreement and relationship with the EU.

“A jobs-first Brexit that maintains and develops workers’ rights, and consumer and environmental protections and uses powers returned from Brussels to support a new industrial strategy. A jobs-first Brexit where work pays, employees have security and decent conditions and prosperity is shared by the true wealth creators – that means all of us.”

By contrast, he will say that the Conservatives want to deregulate the economy, which will exacerbate inequalities. “The Tory approach to Brexit is to use the process of leaving to … deliver a deregulated free market tax haven on the shores of Europe, underpinned with a race-to-the-bottom trade deal with Donald Trump – a Shangri-La for bosses and bankers but nothing of the kind for everybody else,” he will say.

It follows a BBC radio interview on Monday when Corbyn appeared to have softened the party’s position on staying in the single market. He said Labour was flexible as long as the UK was still able to trade within the single market after Brexit.

“We want a relationship which allows us to trade within the single market,” he said. “Whether that’s formal membership – which is only possible, I believe, if you are actually a member of the EU – or whether it’s an agreed trading relationship, is open for discussion. The outcome is more important than the nomenclature on the way.”

Countries outside the EU but inside the single market include Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.

Asked whether he could envisage the UK staying in the EU outright, Corbyn said his party was in a complicated position as most Labour voters backed remain, but a substantial minority voted to leave and the UK as a whole voted to leave, which he said must be respected. Sources close to Corbyn said the party’s position had not changed.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, opened the group’s congress on Monday by calling for continued membership of the EU single market, saying it was the best way to protect British workers after Brexit. The TUC, which represents about 50 trade union organisations, officially stated that it was in favour of remaining in the single market after a meeting on Thursday.

Labour announced last month it favoured continued membership of the single market and customs union during a transitional period after the formal Brexit date of March 2019 but the party has not been as clear about what it wants after the interim arrangements.

Corbyn has previously said the party would leave the single market because such status is “dependent on membership of the EU” but would seek a trade deal that mirrored the free trade benefits.

In June, the Labour leader sacked three of his frontbenchers who voted against the party in favour of a Queen’s speech amendment calling for Britain to remain within the customs union and single market.

Corbyn explained Labour’s position as he urged Labour MPs to vote against Theresa May’s EU withdrawal bill on Monday, telling rebels that the party still respects the result of the referendum. Caroline Flint and Frank Field are among those Labour MPs planning to vote with the government.

At the TUC, Corbyn will also criticise parts of the media which are owned by media barons but will tell delegates that their influence is on the wane. “The power of the billionaires, who control great chunks of the media isn’t what it was. They tried to dictate the election result in June with a blizzard of propaganda and millions of voters simply ignored them,” he will say.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason, for The Guardian on Tuesday 12th September 2017 00.01 Europe/London

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