Keir Starmer faces fresh Brexit crisis as he is told most Labour members want to Rejoin EU

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Sir Keir marked the first anniversary of his election to Labour’s top job on Sunday against a backdrop of mounting criticism of his leadership as the Conservatives have steadily pulled ahead in the polls since the turn of the year. He has faced accusations that he has been too cautious and failed to offer a clear direction for the party, while the Tories’ fortunes have benefited from the rapid rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

Come on Keir! Most Labour members want you to campaign to #RejoinEU

Richard Corbett

But hopes of avoiding a potentially damaging party rift over its position on Brexit suffered a blow today when two influential members demanded a rethink on Labour’s stance on the EU.

Former Yorkshire & Humber MEP Richard Corbett, who led the Labour group in the European Parliament, tweeted: “Come on Keir! Most Labour members want you to campaign to #RejoinEU according to a YouGov poll published today.

“Time to speak out about the #BrexitDisaster!”

And Rejoin campaigner Lord Adonis tweeted: “Poll shows 59 percent of Labour members want Labour to campaign to rejoin the EU, 15 percent against. I am with the 59 percent.”

The YouGov survey showed 59 percent of grassroots Labour members think the party leader should campaign for the country to apply to be readmitted.

Only 15 percent of those quizzed thought he should give up on the idea.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “This starkly demonstrates the circle that Starmer can’t square between his metropolitan members and the voters in the former Red Wall seats of the Midlands and the North.

“Whatever Starmer says his policy is on the EU, he and his party can’t be trusted if they ever get power not to sell us all back into vassalage as a member of the undemocratic and unaccountable European Union.”

The poll comes a month before the Hartlepool byelection in which Labour faces a serious challenge to cling on to the previously safe seat which saw its majority whittled down to just 3,600.

The northeastern town was one of the most pro-Brexit parts of the country in the 2016 referendum and Sir Keir made Labour’s position clear during a recent campaign visit ahead of the May 6 vote.

He said: “We are looking forwards not backwards.

“The referendum was five years ago now. We have left the EU. There is no case for rejoining. We want to make our exit a success.

“We want the deal to work, we are asking how we make the UK a great success under whatever trading arrangements we make with the EU and the wider world.

“We don’t want to go back to the divisions of the 2016 referendum. We want to speak to and for those in Hartlepool who voted either way in the referendum.

“Now what matters most is what the future looks like not what divisions we might have had in the past.”

The party’s policy ahead of the 2019 general election of holding a second EU referendum proved disastrous in Brexit-backing Labour heartlands and led to the collapse of the so-called Red Wall and humiliation at the polls.

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Sir Keir insists Labour is now concentrating on the next general election and has told supporters to prepare for battle in as little as two years.

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act the next general election is not due until May 2014, but Boris Johnson has pledged to repeal the legislation and Sir Keir predicts the Prime Minister will probably go to the polls well before then.

He said: “I’ve instructed the party to be ready to fight one as early as 2023.

“Labour must be bold. Ahead of us is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink what Britain can be, where power lies and who it works for.

“Our ambition for Britain must match the moment. Not merely fiddling with tax incentives or creating pots of money for towns to scrap over, but creating an economy that works for everyone.

“The opportunities ahead of us are huge. The task for Labour is clear: to get Britain working again.”

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