Keir Starmer faces furious revolt by 'dozens' of MPs over Brexit

Keir Starmer faces furious revolt by ‘dozens’ of MPs over his plea to give ‘closure’ by backing Brexit deal – with Diane Abbott and Scottish Labour joining Nicola Sturgeon condemning the crucial agreement with EU 

  • Sir Keir Starmer is facing growing Labour revolt over decision to back PM’s deal
  • Ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell among Labour MPs to oppose decision
  • Group of MPs and activists said Labour must not ‘rally around this rotten deal’ 

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a furious revolt by dozens of Labour MPs over his plea to give ‘closure’ on Brexit by backing the PM’s deal.

Sir Keir is ordering his benches to support the historic trade pact with the EU in crunch votes this afternoon, saying the argument is ‘over’ and the issue must not dominate the next election.

But more than 20, including former shadow cabinet members Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, are expected to defy their leader to oppose the package, while Scottish Labour is joining Nicola Sturgeon in condemning the plan.

The rebellion underlines the festering divide within Labour over how to handle to Brexit, and contrasts with the apparent unity in Boris Johnson’s ranks over the deal, which is being crashed through Parliament in a single day before the transition period ends on December 31. 

A poll overnight suggests that Labour voters want the party to help pass the agreement with the EU. 

Sir Keir Starmer has told Labour MPs to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU when it is put to a vote tomorrow 

A poll overnight suggests that Labour voters want the party to help pass the agreement with the EU

More than 20 Labour MPs, including former shadow cabinet members Diane Abbott (pictured) and John McDonnell, are expected to defy their leader to oppose the package

Sir Keir is calling on Labour MPs to support the ‘thin’ post-Brexit free trade agreement, despite misgivings that it will fail to protect many key economic sectors.

He has argued that the alternative of ending the Brexit transition period on December 31 without a deal in place would be even worse for the economy.

But Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has announced that he is opposed to the deal. 

‘Boris Johnson promised more than a year ago that he would ‘get Brexit done’, and that his deal was ‘oven ready’ – yet his shambolic government is racing to ratify its half-baked Brexit deal the day before the end of the transition period,’ Mr Leonard said.

‘There is no co-production here; no engagement with industry, trade unions or devolved governments on the terms of this trade deal, and barely any parliamentary scrutiny let alone public participation.

‘It is our duty to stand up for Scotland in Parliament tomorrow. But it is also our duty to protect Scottish businesses and jobs from the damage that this deal will do, and that means the SNP government must distribute the £300 million of Barnett consequentials to businesses as soon as possible.

‘We cannot lose sight of the fact that our economy is still in the depths of another crisis that the SNP left Scotland unprepared for. It’s time for a national plan for the Scottish economy.’

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Keir said that allowing the remain/leave argument to close is among the reasons his party will vote for the deal.

He told the newspaper: ‘I’m determined the next general election will be fought on our terms, not somebody else’s terms.

‘We’ve left the EU and the remain/leave argument is over. Amongst the reasons for voting for the deal is to allow that closure.

‘In our general election campaign in 2024, we will be a future-looking Labour party and a future Labour government, not one that looks behind us.’

Ms Abbott told constituents in Hackney: ‘I will not be voting for Boris’s Brexit deal.

‘Like many Labour MPs, I was amazed that the Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that we were going to vote for the deal when nobody on the Labour side had actually seen it.’

Mr McDonnell, former Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw and former shadow business secretary Clive Lewis are among those to have signed a statement blasting Sir Keir for supporting Mr Johnson’s ‘rotten’ deal. 

The statement calls on all opposition parties not to support the agreement and warns Labour against ‘falling into the trap’ of backing it. 

Labour MP Rupa Huq told Times Radio yesterday she believes ‘more than 20’ of her colleagues will defy the whip to vote against the deal.              

But Sir Keir is facing a growing Labour rebellion on the issue, with ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell leading calls for the party not to support the ‘rotten’ accord 

The statement has been organised by the campaign groups Another Europe is Possible and Labour for a Socialist Europe – both on the left – but it has attracted support from both wings of the party. 

As well as Mr Bradshaw, the signatories also included ex-cabinet minister Lord Adonis from the Blairite wing of the party.

From the left, Mr McDonnell is joined by Mr Lewis as well as a number of former MEPs, councillors and party activists. 

The statement said: ‘Given the Government’s majority, it is a foregone conclusion that the deal will pass in parliament, but this deal will not ‘get Brexit done’: negotiations over trade and regulatory frameworks will go on and on for years to come. 

‘The vital task now is opposition: proper parliamentary scrutiny of this and all future trade deals, and the setting out of an alternative future in which we not only regain the rights and jobs we have lost, but become a better and more equal society. 

‘That task gets harder if opposition parties fall into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal.

‘We call on Labour, the labour movement and other opposition parties not to support the Tories’ Brexit deal when it is put to a vote in the House of Commons.’

Labour is alone among the opposition parties in saying it will support the deal – with the SNP and the Liberal Democrats having said they will vote against it.

The DUP – which backed Brexit – has also said it will oppose the deal because the Brexit divorce settlement imposes customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.   

Mr Johnson will crash his trade deal through Parliament with one day to spare before the end of the ‘standstill’ transition period on December 31. 

The PM’s 80-seat majority and the backing of a majority of Labour MPs means the accord’s passage through the House of Commons and the Lords should be relatively smooth sailing.     

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