LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour Party threw down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit on Tuesday, offering potential rebels in her Conservative Party a way to defy her by voting for a new single market deal with the EU.
Parliament will vote next week on May's Brexit blueprint, the EU withdrawal bill, pitching lawmakers who want a clean break with the European Union against those demanding a closer relationship after Britain leaves in March next year.
Labour said in a statement it had submitted an amendment to the bill calling on the government to negotiate full access to the EU's single market, to keep common minimum standards, rights and protections, to share joint institutions and regulations and to ensure there are no new impediments to trade.
"Labour will only accept a Brexit deal that delivers the benefits of the single market and protects jobs and living standards," said Keir Starmer, Labour's Brexit policy chief.
"Unlike the Tories (Conservatives), Labour will not sacrifice jobs and the economy in the pursuit of a reckless and extreme interpretation of the referendum result."
Some Conservative lawmakers have suggested they could vote against the government on June 12 to back amendments passed down from the upper house of parliament on the EU's customs union and staying in the European Economic Area (EEA), which would mean remaining in the single market.
Both parties have ruled out remaining in the EEA but Labour has tried to put clear water between it and the government by calling for a new customs union and now a new single market deal. May has said Britain will leave both the customs union and single market.
But, a political source said, any such deal would have to secure caveats to some EU rules and directives and hand Britain control over immigration, breaking one of the "four freedoms" that govern the EU's single market.
Labour said it wanted the new single market deal to replace a House of Lords amendment pressing the government to remain in the EEA. It was not clear whether the party's attempt to change that amendment would be successful and that parliament would get a chance to debate or vote on it.
The party also said it would try to insert the amendment into two other bills -- the taxation bill and trade bill -- which the government needs to pass through parliament.
"Labour's amendment, along with a commitment to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union with the EU, is a strong and balanced package that would retain the benefits of the single market," Starmer said. "Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and vote on it."
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison and David Stamp)
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 01:05 AM