Corbyn snubs cross-party summit aimed at keeping UK's single market status
PUBLISHED: 11:24 09 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:49 09 January 2018
Jeremy Corbyn has snubbed a cross-party summit at the Houses of Parliament on retaining UK membership of the single market and customs union.
The talks, co-ordinated by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, will involve the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, the party said.
The SNP also said there would also be a chair waiting for Jeremy Corbyn at the round-table meeting if he chose to attend.
Mr Blackford invited the Labour leader to the summit before new year but said he had indicated in a letter that Labour would not attend.
A Labour source defended Mr Corbyn's no-show and said the leader's "approach for a jobs-first Brexit, which involves retaining the benefits of the single market, is through negotiation with the EU".
Mr Blackford added: "Extreme Tory plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the single market and customs union will take a wrecking ball to our economy - destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs, and damaging people's incomes, livelihoods, and living standards for decades to come.
"As we move into the critical second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and with just over a year to go before the UK is set to leave the EU, time is running out to save the country from this unprecedented economic catastrophe.
"Our hope for the meeting is to build on the consensus with other opposition parties - it is now more important than ever that we have a united and effective opposition focused on protecting our vital single market membership and holding the UK Government to account.
"Short of remaining in the EU, protecting our single market membership is by far the best compromise, the least damaging option, and the only way to safeguard people's jobs, incomes and living standards."
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable urged Labour to back single market membership.
After the meeting, he said: "This is a good, positive step to parliamentary co-ordination between opposition parties against the Conservative Brexit.
"There are four parties here who are putting their political differences to one side for the good of the country.
"I would urge the Labour leadership to do the same and get involved - their membership and most of their MPs would like them to fight to remain in the single market and customs union."
But a Labour source told the Press Association: "The single market is not a membership club that can be joined so we seek, through negotiation, to retain the benefits of the single market.
"As he [Mr Corbyn] said in his letter back to Ian Blackford, the summit rests on the falsehood that the single market is a membership organisation which you can join, which it is not.
"Our approach for a jobs-first Brexit, which involves retaining the benefits of the single market, is through negotiation with the EU."