Sir Keir Starmer has claimed MPs who oppose Boris Johnson’s “thin” Brexit deal are hiding “in the knowledge that others will save you from the consequences”.
The Labour leader issued a warning about the consequences of not supporting legislation to enact the post-transition period agreement between the UK and EU, as he faces a rebellion among his MPs.
Sir Keir told the Commons that Labour would vote to implement the treaty to “put in place a floor” from which the UK can build a “strong” future relationship with the EU.
But these orders are not universally supported among his MPs, with some expected to vote against the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill at second reading, and already there have been dissenting voices.
Not backing deal
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) was the first Labour backbencher to signal during the debate their intention to rebel, explaining he will not be supporting the deal as it is “a failure”.
He said: “This is a thin deal, it is a failure even on the Government’s own terms, in short it is a bad deal and I won’t be voting for it.”
Nadia Whittome has decided to abstain, yesterday she Tweeted: “Thank you to all constituents and members who have sent me your views on tomorrow’s Bill. Having read them carefully, I have decided to abstain. While I understand and respect colleagues who reach a different conclusion, I cannot vote for Johnson’s damaging deal.”
Diane Abbott said: “I have the greatest respect for the result of the 2016 referendum. But this shoddy deal falls short.” Labour MP Diane Abbott gives her view on the Brexit trade deal.
Now Jeremy Corbyn has joined annoucned he will not back the deal. He Tweeted: “I cannot vote for this deal, which this Government will use to drive down rights and protections, and step up the sell-off of our vital public services. We need instead to break with failed race-to-the-bottom policies and build a Britain that puts people before private profit.”
His full statement is here
I cannot vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal today, which this Government will use to drive down rights and protections, and step up the sell-off of our vital public services.
The Prime Minister appeared in parliament today to present a fait accompli to MPs with no opportunity to amend or scrutinise a major piece of legislation. Not for the first time has he treated democratic accountability with contempt and covered up the inadequacy of his agreement with the EU with bluster and obfuscation.
Whilst the public debate has been dominated by issues of fishing – and in the end there is a five-year extension on that matter – other matters however have received no scrutiny or debate, despite being crucial to the society we wish to be and the country we must build over the coming years.
Of particular importance from a progressive perspective, is that far from protecting workers rights, and environmental standards, they apparently are dependent on whether or not they have any effect on “trade or investment”. Indeed, Johnson confirmed this morning there would be no keeping up with any future alignment with the EU. We know what the Conservative agenda on these rights mean – they have never missed an opportunity to further exploit workers and our environment, and they have sought to create an opportunity for themselves in what they have negotiated.
Additionally, there is no positive news for the 1.6m European nationals who live in Britain and have children or relationships as part of our local communities. What of their future? The government has failed them.
There is no agreement on qualifications being transportable between the EU and the UK in the future. How will this impact on our education system, our research links and our public services? There is no answer.
And this is a ‘thin deal’ which leaves open the potential of damaging tariff wars in the future over agricultural and manufactured goods.
There has also been a claim that Johnson wanted to be free from the EU State aid rules, briefing that they were restrictive of Government intervention to support economic development. My belief has always been that these are restrictive and would hamper a progressive Labour government trying to regenerate the most left behind parts of Britain – but this deal does not break free of state aid or public procurement restrictions, or of commitments to competition and privatisation of public services. They are baked into the deal.
Just over a year ago, in the Sheffield TV debate during the General Election, Boris Johnson challenged my views on public spending, and on handling future relations with Europe by gaily telling the world that we couldn’t afford Labour’s spending plans and that he would “get Brexit done”.
I gently pointed out to him that not only could we as a country afford the spending plans that we put forward, but as a country we could not afford to not apply them.
One year on, the Coronavirus crisis has shown that when the will is there, the Government can spend more, and also why the public investment we argued for was – and is – so desperately needed.
Predictably, rather than focussing on getting the best possible Brexit done in terms of our economy and rights – and in a way which would allow scrutiny and democratic input – the shambolic Johnson Government wasted time with an attempted trade agreement with Trump and the United States, which would have put standards and jobs at risk in Britain, and damaged trade with the EU.
The reality now facing us is that we have a Tory government that has shown throughout the crisis its real agenda of privatisation of our public services and redistribution of power and wealth to the already super rich. This Government worships a failed neo-liberal system which has created Covid billionaires, and the Tories consistent failure to put people and health first has led to thousands of needless deaths, and an NHS which is on the brink of being overwhelmed after being so so undervalued and underfunded by the Tories over the last decade.
This deal should not be supported because it does not give the protections claimed, and it does not secure trade or conditions for our future outside the European Union. It paves the way in the future for very disadvantaged trade deals with other countries, particularly the United States. It gives a Right-Wing Tory government a chance to cut privatised deals, and re-balance our economy in favour of the Tories and their allies.
There is a better way. We need instead to break with the failed race-to-the-bottom policies of the past and build a Britain that puts people before private profit.