- REUTERS/Darren Staples
LONDON – Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has said that the UK could stay in the single market and customs union on a permanent basis after Brexit.
Watson said staying in both the single market and customs union “might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations” as Labour positions itself to be the party of “soft Brexit.”
In an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, Watson also said that Labour believes staying in both during a transitional period is “important” as “that is the way you protect jobs and the economy.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer announced on Sunday that a Labour government would seek to negotiate a transitional period which would see Britain remain both in the European single market and EU customs union.
This is despite Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn previously saying that the UK had to leave the single market when it left the EU in July.
Starmer said Labour “would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both.
“We will always put jobs and the economy first. That means remaining in a form of customs union with the EU is a possible end destination for Labour, but that must be subject to negotiations.”
Prominent trade unions and Labour MPs had been putting pressure on Corbyn to announce that Labour would keep the UK in the single market after Britain leaves the EU, in order for his “jobs-first” Brexit to materalise.
You can watch Watson’s interview here:
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) August31, 2017
Theresa May’s Conservative Party has made it clear that its policy is to remove the UK from both the single market and customs union when Brexit happens.
On Thursday the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that there had been no “decisive progress on any of the principle subjects.” The two sides must make “sufficient progress” on citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Irish border before talks regarding the UK’s future relationship with Brussels can begin.
In his interview, Watson also insisted that there was no plot to remove him as deputy leader, as he has criticised leader Corbyn in the past. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale resigned on Tuesday amid speculation it was because of her opposition to Corbyn.
Labour’s deputy leader said: “Well, there is always someone trying to get rid of you in politics, But, no, I don’t actually see any move to remove me from my position.
“In fact, what I see after the general election, is the party coming together. A recognition, you know, under Jeremy’s leadership, we did far better than anyone anticipated. Probably more than Jeremy himself.”