Labour’s Brexit plan would see the UK remain forever tied to the single market and keep Britain paying into the European Union’s budget after withdrawal, Sir Keir Starmer has admitted.
The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour would make it “easy” for European citizens to keep coming to the UK post-Brexit while businesses would still have to comply with rules and regulations made in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir also refused to rule out calling a second referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU.
The detailed breakdown of Labour’s blueprint for Brexit appeared to finally clear up months of confusion over the party’s position on Brexit which has seen Sir Keir's frontbench colleagues seemingly at odds with each other over the issue.
His intervention came just days after Theresa May agreed the broad terms of a divorce deal with Brussels which should be enough to allow trade talks to begin.
Sir Keir was asked on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One if he believed that Mrs May’s agreement would mean that the UK would stay “very, very close” to the single market and customs union in perpetuity post-Brexit.
He replied: “Yes and I think that is the right thing and I think we should hold her to that because that goes to the heart of the question of what sort of Britain do we want to be.
“Do we see Europe as our major trading partner in the future or do we want to rip ourselves apart from that?”
Sir Keir said he wanted the UK to strike a Norway-style deal with the EU.
The Scandinavian country is a member of the European Economic Area which means it has full access to the single market but in return must accept freedom of movement and no say over the EU rules which it must abide by.
Despite not being a member of the bloc, Norway does contribute to the EU’s budget and Sir Keir said the UK would likely follow suit under Labour’s plan.
“Norway pays money in,” he said.
“They do it actually on a voluntary basis. There may have to be payments, that would have to be negotiated.”
On immigration, Sir Keir said that “the end of free movement doesn’t mean no movement”.
Asked if he was advocating “easy” movement for people from the EU to come to the UK and vice versa, he said: “Yes of course.”
Labour’s plan would also result in the UK having to stick with EU regulations after Brexit.
He said: “What underpins access and the benefits of the single market and customs union is a level playing field, that everybody applies the same regulations and standards.
“So if you want those benefits you have got to stay on the same level playing field. The Labour Party doesn’t have a problem with that.”
He added: “We have got a choice and we can choose to stay aligned.”
Sir Keir also refused to rule out Labour calling a second EU referendum.
He said: “At the moment I think it is absolutely clear that we have got to get through this phase of the negotiation, we have got to get through the Article 50 agreement.
“We have never called for a second referendum. We are focused on what the new agreement needs to look like.”
When asked if the party could call a referendum in the future, he replied: “Well, we haven’t called for a second referendum.
“Things are moving so fast it is hard to know what is going to come next but we are not calling for it."