Labour has demanded British single market membership remain an option post-Brexit after the DUP blocked a deal over Irish border concerns.
Sir Keir Starmer asked MPs “Will the Prime Minister now rethink her reckless red lines and put options such as a customs union and the single market back on the table for negotiation?” in parliament in response to a deal falling apart.
“Because if the price of the Prime Minister’s approach is the break-up of the Union and reopening a bitter divide in Northern Ireland, then the price is too high.”
Brexit secretary David Davis quickly hit back “The suggestion we might depart the EU but leave one part of the UK behind… That is emphatically not something that the UK Government is considering.”
Labour has been deliberately opaque on their Brexit policy, stating they want to retain the benefits of the single market and customs union while respecting the outcome of the referendum.
While the official Conservative line is the UK leaving the single market and customs union, the phrase “regulatory alignment” has been thrown about as a way of maintaining a lax Irish border. This would require the UK to pass laws similar to any EU regulations in specific areas.
Staying inside the single market and customs union but being outside the European Union is possible. Norway is a member of the single market, but not customs union. But it has to accept regulation without having a say in its creation. Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg previously warned the UK it “won’t like” being outside the EU.
Theresa May is desperate to see progress on Northern Ireland after failing to secure an agreement earlier this week – and single market and customs regulations are the sticking point. DUP leader Arlene Foster made clear her party would not accept any divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.