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Labour: UK should remain in EU customs union and single market for up to 4 years

Staff Writer |
Britain's main opposition Labour Party opened up a clear divide with Theresa May's ruling Conservatives by announcing a dramatic shift in its Brexit policy.

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The party's Brexit shadow secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that Britain currently enjoy with the European Union.

"That means we would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both," said Starmer in a keynote article published in the Observer newspaper.

Starmer said a transitional continuation of membership beyond the March 2019 departure date would be as short as possible but as long as necessary, but would also mean accepting the free movement of labour, possibly until around 2023.

Starmer said prime minister May's "ideological obsession with leaving the European customs union and the European single market during a transitional period means the options to deliver a good deal for Britain are diminishing fast.

He said "The fanciful and unachievable proposals put forward in the government's recent customs paper show the colossal risks it is willing to take with British jobs and the economy."

Labour says its new Brexit policy is in stark contrast to what the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond explicitly ruled out a fortnight ago when they stated that Britain would be outside the customs union and the single market in any transitional phase.

"Labour rejects that as an unnecessary and highly risky path to take," said Starmer whose intervention comes just 24 hours before Britain and the EU open their new round of Brexit negotiations Monday.

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