Commentators have pointed to a senior Labour politician adopting the same language as the Conservative Party on Brexit as both parties battle for the eurosceptic vote.
Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme and stated that Labour’s aim in the Brexit negotiations is to “have our cake and eat it” – but that “Brexit means Brexit” as leaving the European Union’s single market looked most likely.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson famously said the Government’s Brexit position is “have our cake and eat it”, and Theresa May prompted ridicule when she first uttered the phrase “Brexit means Brexit”.
While Long-Bailey was unable to clear up the confusion over Labour’s stance on membership of the EU single market and customs union, the Liberal Democrats argued it showed Labour’s Brexit position is “so indistinguishable from the Conservatives that they have started parroting Boris Johnson”.
Others were quick to point to the similarities.
Before becoming Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn was a critic of the EU as it favoured big business over workers, and he faced criticism during the referendum campaign for not doing enough to stop Brexit. Footage was this weekend being shared of Corbyn in 1996 arguing how “unaccountable” Brussels was.
Long-Bailey said it would be “fantastic” to be able to remain within the single market, but also described that outcome as “probably unlikely”.
Asked by Andrew Neil if Labour would seek to leave the EU customs union if they were negotiating the UK’s withdrawal, she said:
“We want to maintain the benefits that we currently have within the customs union, but you know, we want to have our cake and eat it, as do most parties in Westminster in terms of being to negotiate our own trade deals.”
Asked if she was on the same wavelength as Boris Johnson, who famously described his policy as pro-having cake and pro-eating it, she said:
“Well, we need to be flexible. We’ve got to not cut our nose off to spite our face and we reject the principle of no deal that the Conservatives have put forward.”
When quizzed on the party’s negotiating position on the single market, she said:
“We want to retain the benefits that we currently have as part of the customs union and the single market.
“Now whether that’s inside or outside that’s a moot point. That will remain part of the negotiations themselves, but we’re leaving the EU, Brexit means Brexit, we’re quite clear on that and we respect the result of the referendum.”