Leader makes clear that single market blocks nationalisation
CONTINUED membership of the EU’s single market could scupper Labour plans to renationalise and invest in industry, Jeremy Corbyn warned yesterday as Labour conference opened.
The Labour leader was responding to an open letter by 30 backbenchers and trade union leaders urging him to commit the party to stay in the single market when Britain leaves the EU.
Signatories include former cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Heidi Alexander, trade unionists Manuel Cortes and John Monks and Labour MPs such as Clive Lewis and Stella Creasy.
But Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that EU rules entrench privatisation and could stop a Labour government investing in public services.
He urged caution, saying that the terms of future trade relationships need to be examined carefully.
The Labour leader said: “At the moment we are a part of the single market and that has within it restrictions on state aid and state spending and pressures on it, through the European Union, to privatise rail and other services.
“I think we need to be careful about the powers we need as a national government.”
He explained that EU rules could have blocked him from taking Britain’s steel industry into public ownership or using state funding as a rescue package during its recent crisis.
And continued membership of the EU and its single market could block a Labour government from carrying out its programme, including investing in industries, he said.
The letter said that Labour should remain in the single market and customs union and work with others to “improve workers’ rights, boost trade union membership and put an end to the exploitation of workers, not freedom of movement.”
It claimed that leaving the single market would “hit the most vulnerable the hardest.”
But when he addresses conference today, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer was expected to slam Tory incompetence and said Labour were ready “to take control of the negotiations.”
The party’s approach was “democratically legitimate,” respecting the result and “putting jobs and the economy first,” he was due to say, adding that Labour values of fairness, social justice and internationalism would not be abandoned when Britain leaves the EU.
The Labour leader said he was going into this week’s conference full of confidence, telling Mr Marr the movement being built by the Labour Party is “stronger than ever.”
Mr Corbyn is set to address delegates in his leader’s speech on Wednesday.