Sadiq Khan calls for debate on return to single market, says ‘Brexit won’t work’


Sadiq Khan – Tristan Fewings/Getty Images Europe

Sadiq Khan on Thursday called for a debate on Britain’s return to the single market and customs union as he warned that “Brexit is not working”.

Mr Khan, the Labor mayor of London, took issue with the National Party’s policy of calling for a return to closer economic ties with the European Union.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, has ruled out re-entering the single market if his party wins the next election, and last week appropriated a campaign slogan by promising to unveil a “Take Back Control Bill”.

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Speaking to Mansion House business leaders, Mr Khan said: “I just can’t keep quiet about the massive damage Brexit is doing.

“Ministers seem to have developed selective amnesia when it comes to one of the root causes of our problems. Brexit cannot be erased from history or its consequences wished away.”

Mr Khan suggested Britain’s economic problems were not “irreparable” and could be alleviated by “a shift away from this extreme, hard Brexit”, saying: “We need more alignment with our European neighbours.”

He added: “That also includes a pragmatic debate on the benefits of participating in the customs union and the internal market.”

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Adverse effects when we can least afford it’

The mayor acknowledged that “no one wants to see a return to the division and stalemate” of the years between Britain’s public vote to leave the EU and Brexit, which finally takes place on January 31, 2020, but stressed that Brexit had had “detrimental consequences” at a time when we can least afford it.”

Sir Keir vowed last year to “make Brexit work” without reopening negotiations on the UK trade deal.

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Instead, Labor has said it would negotiate a new security pact with Brussels and take measures it says would ease tensions caused by controls required by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When asked about Mr Khan’s comments by reporters, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said: “Our position has not changed. The British people set out their views in 2016 and the government is busy implementing them, particularly focusing on the benefits of Brexit including the Rule Bill.”

Opinium polls last week showed Conservative voters are losing confidence in the benefits of Brexit, with many now believing the costs outweigh the benefits.