On Sunday, a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet warned that Labour could be divided over the question of whether Britain should stay in the single market.
Talking at the Labour’s Autumn conference in Brighton, Andrew Gwynne, the party’s election strategist said that the party faces a challenge in satisfying those who want Labour to preserve close ties to the European Union.
When asked by reporters whether the single market row has the possibility “tear the party apart,” Gwynne responded: “It could if we’re not careful.”
Gwynne said that the party had to listen to concerns regarding immigration that are expressed in the referendum campaign. However, he warned that the party must not “cut off our nose to spite our face” by supporting draconian cuts to migration.
This afternoon, many demonstrators descended on the Labour conference to compel the party into supporting a more pro-EU policy.
However, Corbyn continues to be opposed to staying in the single market after Brexit, informing the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning that it would restrict his powers as prime minister.
“We need to look very carefully at the terms of any trade relationship, because at the moment we are part of the single market, obviously. That has within it restrictions on state aid and state spending,” Marr was told by Corbyn.
“That has pressures on it, through the European Union, to privatise rail, for example, and other services. I think we have to be quite careful about the powers we need as national governments.”
John McDonnell , he Shadow Chancellor, also indicated his opposition today, informing the Peston show that it would be “difficult” to stays as a member.
Talking at a fringe event hosted by Paul Waugh, the HuffPost’s political editor, Gwynne stated that Labour had to be “careful” how they resolve their Brexit policy, or risk tearing the party apart.
When asked whether he supported the retaining freedom of movement after Brexit, Gwynne answered: “It is a very difficult issue.”
“It depends on what deal we come out with. If we want to retain some of the benefits of the European single market then that might mean there will be some form of movement across the continent,”
“But that can be done with checks and balances in place. For example, Switzerland is outside the wider single market but has an agreement with the EU through EFTA to have some of its benefits, and they are able to put restrictions on migrant labour. It might be that we have that sort of approach.”
Gwynne stated that the party needed to hear the concerns if the voters regarding immigration.
“A lot of my constituents voted for Leave because they wanted to end what they saw as people coming from other parts of the EU, taking their jobs, lowering their wages and living standards, and I understood those concerns. It was actually the duty of us as national politicians to tackle that through domestic policy. We lost that argument in the referendum.
However, Gwynne warned against “cutting off our noses to spite our faces,”
“But what I want to see is a sensible approach because if we end up cutting off our noses to spite our faces, it’s the NHS and social care that will be damaged as a consequence. It is our agriculture and tourism industries that’ll be damaged as a result of that.”
Labour members continue to be overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the single market and the issue is set to dominate party conference. Chukua Umunna, Heidi Alexander,
Labour MPs including Clive Lewis, have signed an open letter calling on Corbyn to make staying in the single market after Brexit party policy, the Guardian reports.
Hundreds of anti-Brexit demonstrators held a protest outside the conference centre in Brighton this afternoon. Demonstrators chanted “come on Corbyn, keep us in” as MPs and members made their way into the building.