Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Tory desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal.
Corbyn said Labour had been putting forward a robust case for a customs union during the talks over the past week but suggested he feared the two sides would not find common ground.
“There has to be access to European markets and above all there has to be a dynamic relationship to protect the conditions and rights that we’ve got for environment and consumer workplace rights,” he said. “We’ve put those cases very robustly to the government and there’s no agreement as yet.”
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Read moreMeetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights, which Corbyn described as “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”.
However, there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum.
Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU.
“The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that,” he said.
Corbyn said the UK had “lost a lot of time by the dithering of the government on bringing issues to parliament,” suggesting he believed the route out of the impasse would be moving on to binding indicative votes in parliament rather than pursuing a compromise deal between the two frontbenches.
Labour has less incentive than the Conservatives to avoid EU elections at the end of May, in which the Tories expect heavy losses. Labour’s national executive committee is conducting final candidate interviews for potential MEPs on Tuesday.
Corbyn said Labour would “fight the elections as a party that is committed to that relationship with Europe, but above all it’s about uniting people. However they voted in 2016, they’re suffering from austerity.”
He said he did not see much electoral threat from the Brexit party, which launched last week and is led by Nigel Farage.
“We have to have a relationship with Europe, in or out of the EU. We have a major trading partnership with Europe and all Farage is offering is some kind of never-never-land, saying we’ll walk away from everything,” he said.
“Well, he should say that to those people whose jobs would be at risk in manufacturing industries and food processing industries. He should say that to those people who are really going to suffer as a result of this.
“We’re serious about having a trading relationship with Europe. We’re serious about our relationship with the rest of the world. I’m not sure he is.”