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Jeremy Corbyn today left open the possibility that Britain could remain a member of the EU single market indefinitely after Brexit.
In a major signal of his party’s post-Brexit position, the Labour leader said he wanted the UK to continue to “trade within the single market” and added it was “open for discussion” whether this should involve formal membership even after a transitional period.
Mr Corbyn insisted he respected the outcome of the 2016 referendum but said he wanted Britain to retain membership of “many” EU agencies following its withdrawal from the 28-nation bloc.
Asked about Labour’s plans following a post-Brexit implementation period, the Labour leader said: “We want a relationship which allows us to trade within the single market.”
He told the BBC’s World at One: “Whether that’s formal membership – which is only possible, I believe, if you are actually a member of the EU – or whether it’s an agreed trading relationship, is open for discussion.”
Labour announced last month it favoured continued membership of the single market and customs union during a transition period lasting as long as four years after the formal Brexit date of March 2019.
But the party is yet to announce a firm policy for the longer term, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying Labour was “flexible” on the issue.
Mr Corbyn also said he hoped the UK would “forever” remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and subject to the European Court of Human Rights, which is not an EU body.
Nonetheless, he argued that Britain should not break off its close contact with EU institutions which enable cross-border co-operation on a wide range of issues.
“I want to build a relationship with Europe and I want to work in Europe – a Europe that works for the many, not for the few – and remain a member of European institutions,” he said.
“We are obviously going to be forever signed up, I hope, to the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
“But there are many other EU-related agencies that we should be members of and ensure that this close relationship of manufacturing industry and universities remains and the close relationship of peoples across Europe remains.”
Following Mr Corbyn’s radio appearance, the leader’s office put out a statement clarifying the party’s position on single market membership after Brexit.
It said: “Our position hasn’t changed. We won’t be “members” of the single market after the transition.
“We want to achieve full tariff free access to the single market. That could be achieved by a new relationship with the single market or a bespoke trade deal with the EU, which was what Jeremy was referring too.”
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