David Miliband accuses Jeremy Corbyn of being the ‘midwife of hard Brexit’

Ex-Foreign Secretary and Former Labour MP David Miliband in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017.

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Ex-Foreign Secretary and Former Labour MP David Miliband in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017.
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Reuters / Aaron P. Bernstein

  • Ex-foreign secretary David Miliband told BI he is “baffled” by Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to staying in the European single market.
  • “I fear that the position Labour has taken makes Jeremy Corbyn the midwife of hard Brexit,” he said.
  • Miliband spoke alongside Conservative MP Nicky Morgan and former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, on Monday. All three called on Theresa May to embrace a soft Brexit which would involve Britain remaining in the single market and a customs union with the EU.

LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn is acting as a “midwife of hard Brexit,” former Labour leadership candidate David Miliband has claimed, adding that he is “baffled” by the Labour leader’s opposition to staying in the single market.

The former Labour foreign secretary told Business Insider that Corbyn should support amendments to the Brexit bill which seek to keep Britain in the single market.

Last week, 83 Labour peers voted for the House of Lords amendment, which would instruct Theresa May’s government to pursue a “Norway-style” Brexit. However, a spokesperson for Corbyn suggested that the Labour leader would whip his MPs to not vote for it when it returns to the House of Commons.

Speaking to BI on Monday morning, Miliband – a former Cabinet minister who now works in the US – said: “To be absolutely honest, I am baffled about why the Labour leadership is so worried about supporting the EEA position.

“I fear that the position Labour has taken makes Jeremy Corbyn the midwife of hard Brexit.

“If you reject the EEA position, then you’re driven to a hard Brexit that doesn’t just impede trade on goods and services, but also undermines the rights of employees, undermines social and environmental rights.”

He added: “I’ve always seen the EEA as the safe harbour for Britain. If you go back through my time in politics, I argued that being in the EEA is not as good as being in the European Union. I still believe that. However, being in the EEA is much better than the alternatives currently on the table.

“There is a real onus on parliamentarians when the House of Lords amendment finally comes back to the House of Commons.”

Miliband spoke alongside Conservative MP Nicky Morgan and former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, at an event in Rainham, Essex, on Monday morning.

All three politicians called on May’s government to embrace a soft Brexit which would involve Britain remaining in the single market and a customs union with the EU.

Morgan confirmed that she would support the amendment to keep Britain in the EEA, telling reporters: “It’s something I’m likely to support… especially in the context of the city of London and the impact Brexit could have on financial services.”

The intervention comes after Morgan’s colleague, Tory MP Dominic Grieve, told The Guardian last week that he supports a second referendum on the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

It also comes as May’s Cabinet struggles to produce a workable solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. The two ideas it has come up with – “max fac” and May’s preferred “customs partnership” – have already been rejected by Brussels.

The prospect of EEA membership was also bolstered on Monday when Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg said the country was open to the UK joining the European Economic Area.

One potential obstacle to a soft Brexit appeared to be removed on Monday when Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg said the country was open to the UK joining the European Economic Area after Brexit

“I think we will cope very well if the Brits come in. It will give bargaining power on our side too,” she told the Financial Times.