UK's Labour backs staying in EU's single market after Brexit

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LONDON (AP) — Britain's main opposition party announced Sunday that it backs the U.K. staying in the European Union's single market and customs union during a "transition period" after Brexit, arguing that would give much-needed certainty to businesses and consumers.

The Labour Party says the ruling Conservative Party's Brexit position — taking Britain out of the EU single market immediately after March 2019, when Britain formally leaves the bloc — would be "unnecessary" and "a highly risky path to take."

Labour Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said his party wants Britain to keep abiding by the terms of its current EU membership during a transition period before a final shift to a new Britain-EU relationship. He says that should avoid a "cliff edge" situation for the British economy. He did not specify how long this transition period should last, only that it would be "as short as possible, but as long as is necessary."

"By remaining inside a customs union and the single market in a transitional phase we would be certain that goods and services could continue to flow between the EU and the U.K. without tariffs, customs checks or additional red tape. There would be no need to set up complex alternative customs or trading relations," he wrote in The Observer newspaper.

Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives agree there should be a "time-limited" transition period after March 2019. But they have made clear that Britain must be outside the EU single market and customs union during the transition so it can exercise more control over immigration and strike up new trade deals with other countries.

Starmer added that Labour would leave open the option of Britain remaining a member of the EU customs union and single market for good, though any such deal would have to give Britain more control over immigration.

Officials from Britain and the EU are to meet Monday in Brussels for a new round of Brexit talks.

Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 but did not trigger the formal two-year exit process until March.