Labour’s plan for Brexit ‘could mean we never really quit EU’

Labour’s plan for an “open-ended” transitional deal with the EU could mean Brexit never really takes place, according to the chair of the official Leave campaign in the EU referendum.
Gisela Stuart, the former Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, was speaking after Labour said it wanted to the UK to remain in the European Single Market for an unspecified period of time as part of a transitional deal with the EU.
Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, set out the plans over the weekend. He made it clear there was no deadline for quitting the single market, saying: “A transitional period under Labour will be as short as possible, but as long as is necessary”
But Ms Stuart, who chaired the official Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, said the UK would never really leave the EU unless it also left the single market.
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And speaking to the Birmingham Mail, she said: “If you move to it being open ended then people will see it as a way of not leaving at all.
“And that’s the worst of both worlds, because on the one hand it will not fulfil the referendum pledge but also, if one of the arguments is that business requires certainty, then something that is creatively ambiguous doesn’t give you that certainty, which business wants.”
Staying in the single market would mean the UK hadn’t really left the EU, she said.
“If we remain in the single market or the customs union then we haven’t left.”
However, Ms Stuart said she would back some sort of transition period for leaving the EU as long as there was a firm cut-off point.
She said: “The key thing is that the time limit for that has to be defined at the outset.”
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The UK could use the institutions of the European Free Trade Association for a limited period of time, she said. This organisation includes countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway which are not members of the EU but which are members of the single market.

The single market allows the UK to trade with EU countries with very few restrictions. However, it also means the UK is bound by EU rules and continued membership would probably mean the UK had to continue to accept freedom of movement so it could not limit migration from EU countries.
A transition deal may be needed because the UK is currently due to leave the EU by 29 March 2019 but agreement on the new arrangements, such as a trade deal between the UK and EU, may not have been reached by then.
The UK government has come under fire from EU officials who say it is failing to set out a clear position in negotiations.
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European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said official papers setting out the Government’s positions were not satisfactory and it was “crystal clear” that an “enormous amount” of issues needed to be settled before talks on a future trade deal could begin.
Officials from Brussels and the UK were continuing negotiations in the latest round of the withdrawal process, but Mr Juncker’s comments are further evidence of the European Union’s frustration with the approach being taken by the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
His comments came after Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was concerned about the lack of clarity and insisted “we must start negotiating seriously”.

 

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