Labour positions itself as party of soft Brexit

Labour Wants Customs Union Access for UK in Transitional Period After Brexit

As Starmer unveiled Labour's new approach, a government source said the European Union should not "drag its feet" in negotiating Brexit.

In his op-ed, Starmer is scathing about the government's "fanciful and unachievable proposals" for a bespoke transitional customs arrangement with the European Union that were set out in a position paper earlier this month.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary said that the members of the ruling Conservative Party, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, had recently ruled out a possibility of the United Kingdom remaining part of the customs union and the single market during a transitional phase, which Labour considered "an unnecessary and highly risky path to take".

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said there will be a "transition period" lasting at last two years after the United Kingdom leaves the EU in March 2019 during which time the government aims to negotiate an interim arrangement with the customs union and the single market in order to avoid an economic "cliff edge" for businesses.

It would temporarily avoid the worst consequences of Brexit for Ireland, including the issue of how to police a customs border on the island.

"Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we now enjoy with the EU", Starmer wrote.

But party leader Jeremy Corbyn has so far stopped short of committing to continued membership beyond the date of Brexit. The shift represents a victory for soft-Brexiteers in the shadow cabinet.

There is little doubt, however, that Corbyn's move has created a majority in the Commons who favour a soft Brexit.

While the policy was welcomed by many pro-European Labour MPs, Ukip accused Labour of "betraying" Brexit voters.

As ministers gear up for a third round of Brexit talks in Brussels tomorrow, Labour are also willing to consider permanent access to the single market in exchange for European concessions on immigration, The Observer reported.

The strategy was successful, but political conditions have changed since the election, not least because of Corbyn's success in holding Labour seats in its industrial heartland and making gains in the southeast and in Scotland.

The move - which positions Labour firmly as the party of soft Brexit - in effect means it wants minimal change in the years immediately after the United Kingdom leaves the bloc.

The scent of power is a great adhesive, and the unexpected prospect of returning to government after the next election should ensure that Labour MPs and activists will rally around the new policy on Brexit.

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