Brexit: Keir Starmer confirms Labour will support deal
Sir Keir has attempted to alter Labour’s public image by changing its stance on Brexit ever since he was elected leader last year. The party lost its loyal base in the so-called Red Wall in the north of England in the general election of 2019, primarily because of the party’s fragmented policies towards the EU and Brexit. But the Labour leader’s real thoughts on the issue were put to the test after Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to pull a trade agreement out of the bag with the EU just before Christmas.
During the Christmas Eve press conference, Sir Keir was asked to respond to Mr Johnson’s last minute deal, which he had initially dubbed “thin”.
Addressing how a Labour Government would tackle such a deal if his party came to power, Sir Keir said: “Of course we would want to improve on it, but we would have to operate to this deal.
“It is very important that we are in a position to say we go into that election building on this deal.”
Commentator Patrick O’Flynn described this as the Labour leader’s “momentum horribilis” and said that it reflected Sir Keir’s “true disposition”.
He suggested that the comments implied Labour would aim to rewrite the terms of the Brexit deal.
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Times Radio’s Tom Newton Dunn also tweeted: “Starmer has just fired the first shot of the 2024 general election — and made it, guess what, another Brexit election.”
Anonymous Labour sources were quick to shoot down such suggestions, and claimed: “We are not reopening it, we are not rewriting it and we’re not proposing any legal changes.”
However, Mr O’Flynn said that such clarifications only proved Labour were panicking behind the scenes, as a “dangerous message has been conveyed” subsequently undermining the party’s chances for the 2024 election.
He added: “The Labour leader has been caught on video letting the cat out of the bag.”
The commentator emphasised that Sir Keir’s track record on Brexit is already dubious.
He was an ardent Remainer who, at first, said he would respect the democratic result of the EU referendum.
In 2018, he declared that “campaigning for a public vote must be an option … and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option”, if former Prime Minister Theresa May could not secure a Brexit deal.
A second referendum became part of the Labour Party manifesto in the run-up to the 2019 general election.
In June last year, the Labour Together report claimed that this policy alone was a key contribution to Labour’s devastating defeat “by a country mile”.
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Unsurprisingly, Sir Keir has tried to overturn this pro-EU image since taking over as leader.
When Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal hit the House of Commons on December 30, he used the whip to implore his party MPs to vote in favour of the deal.
However, it soon backfired.
Three Labour MPs resigned as junior frontbenchers and refused to vote for the Brexit deal.
Some Brexiteers have also questioned Sir Keir’s decision to push the Prime Minister to rule out the possibility of no deal, which was one of the UK’s main negotiating tactics.
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Mr O’Flynn asked: “What hard-won sovereignty does he envisage sacrificing in pursuit of allegedly superior trading arrangements?
“Will he pledge to give the people a veto on any new agreements he enters into with Brussels by holding a referendum on them?
“Given his conduct on matters EU over the past four years, isn’t he really limbering up to start a long march to rejoining?”
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