Hard Brexit would be disaster for working people, say Labour MPs

Dozens of MPs write letter in response to calls from Tories for withdrawal from single market and EU customs union

Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary.

Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary. Ninety Labour MPs have warned that a hard EU withdrawal would make the weekly food shop more expensive.
Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Leaving the single market in a hard Brexit would be a disaster for working people, make the weekly food shop more expensive and hit jobs, growth and business, according to 90 Labour MPs.

In a blistering attack on Brexit-supporting colleagues, they urged Theresa May to act against any situation in which the country would be forced to follow “World Trade Organisation rules”.

Their letter, sent to the Guardian, was a response to the calls from 60 Conservative MPs – including seven former cabinet ministers – who said the prime minister must withdraw the UK from the single market and customs union.

Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, John Whittingdale and Theresa Villiers were among the leading Eurosceptics to demand the UK “untie ourselves from EU shackles and freely embrace the rest of the world”.

Now dozens of Labour MPs, including Emma Reynolds, Pat McFadden, Stephen Timms and Stephen Malhotra – who all sit on the select committee for exiting the European Union, and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer have hit back with a strongly worded letter.

Tusk: only alternative to hard Brexit is no Brexit – video

“The ideology driving some Tory MPs to support a hard Brexit would be a disaster for working people,” they write. “Falling back on World Trade Organisation rules would not be a clean break but the most destructive, harshest of settlements, which would lead to fewer jobs, less business investment and would leave the British people poorer. This is not what they voted for in June.”

They warned that tariffs would be imposed on cars and aeroplane parts, and that consumers would be hit through higher prices. “The weekly shop is likely to become more expensive,” they added.

In a sign of the continuing war of words in parliament – the group, which also includes shadow business secretary Clive Lewis, added: “A hard Brexit is the worst of all worlds and does nothing to honour their aspirations.”

The letter was not signed by Tory MPs but one told the Guardian that many of the party’s backbenchers held similar views. “There are a number of Conservative colleagues who also feel the letter signed by 60 Conservative MPs needs to be answered, and it should be clear that not everyone on the Tory backbenches believe in a hard Brexit or closing off options now.”

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