The main opposition Labour party of Britain now supports staying in the European single market for a transitional period as the country says goodbye to the European Union, in a significant shift in policy.
“Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU,” the party’s spokesman on Brexit, Keir Starmer, published in The Observer newspaper on Sunday.
“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,” Starmer said, meaning unrestricted immigration from the European Union could continue.
The comments represent a major shift in policy for Labour, which was previously vague on whether it would try to maintain single market and customs union membership, asserting that it wanted a “jobs-first Brexit.”
After making substantial gains during the General Elections in June, Labour is in a powerful position, removing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives of their majority in parliament and urging them to secure a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to govern.
A source from the government noted that the European Union should not “drag its feet” in negotiating Brexit, as Starmer unveiled Labour’s new approach.
“Both sides must be flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to solving areas where we disagree,” said the source.
“As the EU itself has said, the clock is ticking so neither side should drag its feet,” continued the source, just days before a fresh round of UK-EU divorce discussions in Brussels.
The Brexit ministry of the government also called for the European Commission to be “more flexible” in a statement, as British negotiators promote talks on future ties on trade.
It announced that Britain would try to retain as many aspects of its European Union membership in place as possible throughout a transition period of up to three years, last month.
“Many things will look similar, and goods will continue to flow between Britain and the EU in much the same way as they do now even after the scheduled departure date of March 2019,” Britain’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, announced at the time.
But he also stated that starting from the expected departure date of March 2019, nationals from the European Union would have to register with the authorities as the government develops a new immigration system.
However, the European Union has announced that it will not address the proposal of Britain to start trade talks or to establish a temporary customs union unless “sufficient progress” was performed on some key issues.
These include the divorce bill, the future of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland and the status of EU nationals in Britain.
Last year, Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, and Prime Minister Theresa May issued a formal announcement in March, commencing a two-year negotiating timetable to exit.