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Cutting immigration not a priority for Labour in Brexit talks

  • Jun 2017
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The party says it would put retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union at the heart of its exit negotiations.

 

Cutting immigration would not be the main priority for a Labour government as it plans Britain's future outside the European Union.

 

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Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the party would put retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union at the centre of its negotiations with Brussels, and bin Theresa May's "reckless" exit strategy.

 

Sir Keir said EU nationals would have their right to remain in the UK guaranteed on day one of Jeremy Corbyn taking power, and Mr Corbyn would then "seek" reciprocal measures for Britons living in the rest of the bloc.

 

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He said there was "no clearer signal" that Labour wanted to build a close and collaborative future relationship with Brussels.

 

Sir Keir conceded that in seeking a "reformed" relationship with the single market, or customs union, Labour accepted that rules on free movement of workers could not go on as immigration had been a major factor in the Brexit vote.

 

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In a speech in central London, he said Labour would like Parliament to have a "meaningful" vote on any withdrawal deal late next year, adding that a Labour government would then have time to renegotiate with Brussels if MPs rejected what was on offer.

 

Labour also wants to ditch the Government's Great Repeal Bill, which Sir Keir claimed would harm protections for workers and hit environmental safeguards.

 

"We all know that for many Brexiteers in the Tory Party, this was why they wanted to Leave," he said.

 

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"It's why Priti Patel - now in the Cabinet - spoke during the referendum of wanting to 'halve the burdens' of 'EU social and employment legislation'."

 

In a question and answer session after the speech, Sir Keir also suggested the UK could give up the right to do post-Brexit international trade deals if it gets a good exit agreement.

 

He said the prospect of staying in the EU customs union - which would severely restrict the prospect of independent UK trade deals - should be part of withdrawal talks.

 

Pressed on whether this could mean abandoning Britain's ability to cut non-EU trade deals, Sir Keir said: "We have to get the right deal with the EU. We need to recognise that we have 44% of our trade with the EU. That is the number one consideration.

 

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"We are talking about the opening stance, not where we will end up. Sensible negotiations start by leaving the maximum number of options on the table."

 

Responding to Sir Keir's remarks, Brexit Secretary David Davis said Labour's promise not to walk away from exit talks "really undermines" Britain's negotiating position.

 

Mr Davis also accused Labour of copying the Government's Brexit blueprint, given Theresa May has already said she will seek the greatest possible access to the single market and remain in the customs union.

 

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He said: "They're trying to rebrand our argument of the last nine months, even though they've resisted it for the last nine months."

 

Speaking during a campaign visit to Wales, Mrs May said Labour's proposals are "nonsensical".

 

"What we've seen today from Labour is, I think, their seventh Brexit plan. It's yet another nonsensical Jeremy Corbyn plan for the future in terms of Brexit," she said.

 

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