Labour has been slammed for “betraying” voters as shadow ministers appear to pressure leader Jeremy Corbyn towards forcing a vote on Single Market membership – something which could split the Tory Party and cause Brexit chaos.
Officially, the Conservatives want to leave the European Union’s (EU) protectionist trade area, but many Tory MPs are sympathetic to a so-called “soft-Brexit”, with the UK locked inside unable to control migration.
The Labour Party’s position on the matter is even more unclear, with Mr. Corbyn committed to keeping the UK in during a ‘transition period’ and open to long-term continued membership after Brexit.
Until 10 days ago, however, the Eurosceptic Labour leader was promising to bring the UK out of the Single Market, but later bowed to pressure from his shadow chancellor and Brexit secretary, who wanted all options kept open.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has now revealed he also is pressuring to keep the UK in the Single Market during a ‘transitional period’, and possibly longer.
He told The Guardian Wednesday he would table amendments to the EU withdrawal bill to ensure it was “possible to achieve transitional arrangements on the same basic terms – including the Single Market and the Customs Union”.
Sir Keir claimed the bill in its current form was not acceptable, partly because it “dismantles the apparatus of the Single Market and the Customs Union and it extinguishes any role for the European Court of Justice”.
Tory MPs and advisers hit back at the suggestion, accusing Labour of playing games in an attempt to delay Brexit indefinitely.
Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said: “There is a clear instruction from the British people to end uncontrolled EU immigration and that means leaving the Single Market in March 2019.”
He argued that Labour had made clear in its election manifesto that it would end Free Movement but could only do so by leaving the economic grouping.
“It would be wrong for the Labour Party to seek to undermine the referendum decision or seek to kick it into the long grass,” said Mr. Elphicke.
He also accused Sir Keir of betraying both voters and his own leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has said Britain should leave the Single Market after Brexit.
“It’s double infamy,” he said. “He’s betraying the voters – but also his leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who says we will have to leave the Single Market.”