Labour will vote down ‘blind’ Brexit deal, Sir Keir Starmer warns PM
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has warned Labour will vote against a Brexit deal if MPs are left “blind” to the full details of a future relationship with the EU.
Ahead of his trip to Brussels to meet EU officials on Wednesday, Sir Keir highlighted how the government have promised a “detailed, precise and substantive” agreement for parliament to vote on.
With negotiations continuing between the UK and Brussels over the terms of a withdrawal agreement, some MPs fear there will be little time left to thrash out the terms of a political declaration on a future UK-EU relationship.
It has been suggested this would leave the majority of trade negotiations to the 21-month Brexit transition period.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May told her cabinet she is confident of reaching a Brexit deal with the EU, but stressed “this would not be done at any cost” amid continuing discussions over the Irish border issue.
Prior to meeting EU representatives in the Belgian capital, Sir Keir said: “This is crunch time in the Brexit negotiations.
“Yet government divisions and delays mean that little time has been spent debating what our future trading and security relationship will be after Brexit.
“Months of deadlock in Theresa May’s government mean we’re facing continued uncertainty and the prospect of years of further negotiations over our future relationship with the EU.
“A blind Brexit could prolong business uncertainty and provide insufficient guarantees to protect jobs, the economy and rights.
“Whether you voted Leave or Remain, nobody voted for the purgatory of permanent negotiations.
“Theresa May and Dominic Raab promised that the Brexit deal put before Parliament will be ‘detailed, precise and substantive’.
“That is exactly what Labour expects and what I will be discussing in Brussels.
“If the final deal it is anything less than the government has promised, Labour will not support it.”
Responding to Sir Keir’s comments, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis accused Labour of having “spent the last two years doing everything they possibly can to frustrate the Brexit process”.
Referring to Labour’s refusal to rule out a fresh referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal, Mr Lewis said: “They promised to respect the referendum, but voted against the EU Withdrawal Act and now want to rerun the referendum, tearing up their pledge.
“Only the Conservatives will respect the referendum result and negotiate the right Brexit deal for our country. Labour would take the country back to square one.”
Earlier this year, Sir Keir used his Labour conference speech to insist “nobody is ruling out Remain as an option” in a possible new referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU, if parliament rejects a Brexit deal and a general election doesn’t follow.
Labour have come under further pressure to vote against the government’s agreement with the EU.
A consultation of more than 6,500 members of left-wing pressure group Momentum revealed 92% want all the party’s MPs to vote down a Brexit deal secured by the prime minister, if it doesn’t meet Labour’s six tests for an agreement.
Meanwhile, 41% of Momentum members support a public vote on Brexit in all circumstances, although 40% only want a referendum if there is no general election and 17% don’t support a national ballot.
:: The prime minister has formed five new business councils to advise the government on Britain’s future outside the EU, as first reported by Sky News.
Their members will include the bosses of BT Group, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, ITV, Prudential, Santander, Tesco and GSK, as well as representatives from the Confederation of British Industry and British Chambers of Commerce.
Mrs May said: “The UK has always been one of the best places in the world to do business and is a leader in sectors from advanced manufacturing to the creative industries.
“Brexit presents a huge opportunity to build a better, stronger economy for people all over the country.
“So I’ve asked these new councils to advise us on the opportunities and challenges facing business as we shape the UK for the future.”