Labour’s position on single market and customs union membership remains unclear

Keir Starmer MP - Flickr/Chatham House

The Labour party’s Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer, did nothing to clarify Labour’s confusing position on membership of the single market and customs union as he appeared on the Andrew Marr show. 

Starmer did say that “there will be an end to freedom of movement” under a Labour government, but continued to refuse to rule out remaining in the single market.

Ending free movement, as promised in the Labour manifesto and repeated by Keir Starmer on Andrew Marr, as well as John McDonnell on Sophy Ridge, would require leaving the single market.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel labelled such proposals as “cherry picking” and said Britain cannot both be in the single market and end freedom of movement.

“The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded – freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market,” Merkel said.

But Labour remains unable to say that, as a consequence of their policy to  end free movement, they would inevitably take Britain out of the single market.

There has also been confusion over Labour’s position on membership of the customs union. Keir Starmer told Andrew Marr that Britain could well remain in the customs union if Labour gets its way.

Labour’s manifesto had no explicit position on membership of the customs union, providing them with space to change their position. Remaining in the customs union would mean seizing Britain’s ability to make our own trade deals around the world, to Brussels.

While you can control Britain’s borders and be members of the customs union at the same time, membership still gives the European Union a large amount of sovereignty as they Brussels negotiates international trade agreements on behalf of all members of the customs union.

Despite Keir Starmer’s comments on Sunday, Labour’s official position on membership of both the customs union and the single market remains unclear.

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