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UK could stay in single market permanently, Labour's deputy leader says

EU and UK flags fly above the EU Commission offices in Westminster, London. David Cameron is making final efforts to bolster support for his proposed European Union reforms before a crunch summit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 17 2016. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Britain could permanently remain part of the single market and customs union after EU withdrawal, Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has said.

The comments came after shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the UK should transitionally remain in the trade organisations for up to four years after formally leaving the EU in 2019.

Asked if Labour was now the party of soft Brexit, Mr Watson told BBC Newsnight: "Yes, you have seen Keir Starmer's statement, we think that being part of the customs union and the single market is important in those transitional times because that is the way you protect jobs and the economy, and it might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations, but we have got to see how those negotiations go."

Mr Watson also insisted there was no plot to oust him from the deputy leader's position after Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale quit amid speculation her departure was due to clashes with Jeremy Corbyn.

Pressed on whether people were trying to get rid of him, Mr Watson said: "Well, there is always someone trying to get rid of you in politics, But, no, I don't actually see any move to remove me from my position."

"In fact, what I see after the general election, is the party coming together. A recognition, you know, under Jeremy's leadership, we did far better than anyone anticipated. Probably more than Jeremy himself."

Mr Watson said he believed Ms Dugdale had stood down for personal reasons.

"I've got to take what Kezia said at face value. She said it is a quality of life issue. It was the right time to go, right for her, right for the Scottish Labour Party."

"I don't think there is a subtext to it. That's why she didn't do a press conference, or go out in a blaze of glory."

"Exit strategies are the hardest thing in politics."

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