Labour MP: you cannot ditch key EU elements then expect no hard border

The British and EU flags flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Photo: (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
The British and EU flags flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Photo: (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Britain should “stay aligned” to the EU after Brexit and there may have to be payments and easy movement of people in order to keep the benefits of the single market and the customs union, the shadow Brexit secretary has said.

Sir Keir Starmer signalled his support for a ‘soft’ Brexit, stating: “We do have a choice – do we want to stay aligned so that we can trade successfully or do we want to tear apart, and I say we should stay aligned.”

Labour he insisted had been “very clear” that the party wanted a partnership that “retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union” and wanted a new treaty.

Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir said: “We would start with viable options, staying in a customs union and a single market variant which means full participation in the single market,” adding that it was the only way to achieve no hard border in Northern Ireland.

He went on: “You can’t sweep the customs union and the single market off the table on the one hand and also say you don’t want a hard border in Northern Ireland...

“You can’t have no hard border if you don’t have alignment.”

Asked if Theresa May’s deal struck with the EU this week would mean Britain would in perpetuity stay very, very close to the single market and the customs union, he responded: “Yes, and I think that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that because that goes to the heart of the question 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?”

Asked if Britain would have to carry on paying some money in, he said: “Norway pays money in, they do it actually on a voluntary basis... there may have to be payments, that’s to be negotiated.”

On freedom of movement, he said: “Well that would have to be negotiated but the end of free movement doesn’t mean no movement, of course we would want people to come from the EU to work here, we would want people who are here to go and work in the EU, the basis of that would have to be negotiated.”

Asked if this would mean easy movement if not free, he replied: “Yes, of course.”

Speaking about regulations and standards, Sir Keir added that if the UK wanted the benefits of the single market and the customs union “you’ve got to stay on the same level playing field”.

Asked if Labour would call for a second referendum, he replied: “We haven’t called for a second referendum, things are moving so fast it’s hard to know what’s going to come next but we are not calling for it.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “Keir Starmer could not have been clearer about what the consequences of Labour’s chaotic approach to Brexit would be.

“A Labour Brexit would mean billions of pounds going to the EU in perpetuity, the UK being forced to obey rules over which we have no say and zero control over our borders.

“Just as we agree a deal which will mean getting control of our laws, money and borders, Labour want to take us back to square one.”