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UK's opposition Labour Party backs soft Brexit, putting pressure on Theresa May
September 21 2017, 02:16 | Irvin Gilbert
Labour frontbencher Sir Keir Starmer
Stefan Rousseau PA
The first minister said: "If it is a genuine, substantive, real change in Labour's position - fully signed up to by Jeremy Corbyn - then, yes, it is welcome".
Writing in the Observer, the party's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said that Labour would aim to deliver "maximum certainty and stability" by remaining inside the customs union and single market during any transitional period.
Liberal Democrats have challenged Labour to back them in a parliamentary vote to keep the United Kingdom in the European single market.
In a move created to establish itself as the "soft Brexit" party, Labour will call for full participation in the single market and customs union during a two to four year "transitional period" after the day of departure.
Senior ministers in May's Conservative government have ruled out remaining in the single market and customs union during any transitional phase following Brexit.
Mr Starmer wrote: "Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we now enjoy with the EU". It would mean a continuation of free movement; ongoing payments into the EU budget for years; continued acceptance of European Court of Justice jurisdiction; and no new ability for the U.K.to strike its own trade deals with other countries during the transition. The shift represents a victory for soft-Brexiteers in the shadow cabinet. He says that should avoid a "cliff edge" situation for the British economy.
Labour has been accused of betraying thousands of its Leave-voting supporters after the party announced a dramatic policy shift on Brexit, arguing that freedom of movement must continue for up to four years after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.
Brexit minister David Davis will call on the European Union to be more flexible in its approach at the start of negotiations with the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday - the third round of talks which are likely to be largely technical. "This is challenging enough without having to negotiate separate transitional arrangements at the same time".
The customs union is the EU's tariff-free trading area, while the single market also includes the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
The government has advocated a transitional period lasting no longer than the next election - scheduled for 2022.
Sir Keir said the transition would be "as short as possible but as long as necessary". "It can not become a kind of never-ending purgatory".
Labour needs to make up its mind whether it is with the Conservatives, seeking to take us out of the single market and customs union, or with the Liberal Democrats who want to protect jobs by remaining inside.