Confusion over Labour’s Brexit stance on Norway-style deal

One backbencher said he left open the option of backing Britain staying part of the European Economic Area (EEA) in a Norway-style deal.

But another said the leader made clear the option was “dead”.

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn refused to rule out Labour backing an amendment to the flagship Brexit bill that would make EEA membership an “objective” for the UK negotiating team.

The change was passed in the Lords with the support of dozens of Labour rebel peers.

Mr Corbyn was quizzed on his preference at the weekly crunch meeting of Labour MPs on Monday.

One backbencher told reporters after that Mr Corbyn had been asked to keep his options open on supporting the proposal when it returns to the Commons and had not ruled it out.

But another – John Mann – said several MPs had spoken out about the move and it had been killed off.

“The EEA is dead,” he said. “It was quite a significant moment, in my view.”

An angry Labour source also told Sky News after: “We are backing the Tories to crash out.”

Mr Corbyn’s spokesperson said Labour wanted a new customs union, with Britain having a say in future trade deals as well as retaining benefits of the single market.

The EEA option has “clear problems” in relation to any new trade deal, they added.

Asked if the option was still on the table, the spokesman replied: “The position that we have set out is what will guide us.”

Conservative Brexit rebel Sarah Wollaston posted on Twitter after: “I’d vote for EEA/EFTA (European Free Trade Association) plus an effective customs arrangement because it would be the gentlest version of Brexit and least likely of the Brexit options to crash our economy or cause serious supply chain problems.”

Over the weekend, Mr Corbyn said an EEA deal would make Britain a “rule-taker, not a rule-maker”.

An Opinium survey of Labour supporters found 69% back having a referendum on the final Brexit deal, compared to 18% who oppose it.