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Labour’s Brexit spokesman said a Labour government would guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain “on day one” to try to improve the tone of negotiations with the EU, as he works to bring clarity to the party’s position on Brexit.

Keir Starmer said Britain could stay inside the customs union, but told the BBC’s Today programme “unchanged single market membership is not a viable option”. Labour is not willing to sign up to the free movement and European Court rulings that are required as part of single market membership.

Sir Keir said parliament should have the right to reject an initial deal struck by the prime minister and to send her “back to the negotiating table”. He declined to say whether Britain would stay in the EU if parliament rejected any follow-up deal.

Sir Keir was speaking ahead of a speech today in which he will relaunch Labour’s Brexit policy, looking to put workers’ rights at the heart of exit negotiations.

Labour has been tortured by Brexit, since the party’s supporters include fervent remain voters in big cities such as London, and millions of leave voters in its working class strongholds.

Former Labour trade minister and EU commissioner Peter Mandelson became the latest senior figure to criticise the party’s muddled approach yesterday. Asked what Labour’s position was on Europe, Lord Mandelson told the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “Search me”.

Meanwhile Tony Blair has warned Labour that any attempt to sideline Brexit as an issue in the election campaign – for example by talking about schools and hospitals – is doomed to failure.

Mr Blair, who wants a second referendum on a final EU deal, wrote in The Guardian that Labour should make a virtue of saying “let’s make up our minds when we see what deal Theresa May gets”.

He added:

The alternative – to talk about something else – will not be powerful enough in the context of this election. And, frankly, you might as well rally those remainers – even if it was only 25% who voted to stay in the EU.

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