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Fresh Labour Brexit confusion as Keir Starmer says party would back Remain after 'any outcome'

3 min read

Labour's Brexit position is mired in fresh confusion after Keir Starmer claimed the party would campaign for Remain under "any outcome".

The shadow Brexit secretary's comments put him at odds with Jeremy Corbyn who has vowed to back Remain against a Conservative Brexit deal or to stop a no-deal but has resisted saying how the party would campaign if it was in power.

Earlier this month, Mr Corbyn said: “If it is no-deal versus Remain then obviously John McDonnell and others made it very clear we would support Remain. If there is the opportunity for some other option to be put then that will be put."

But speaking to the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Starmer said his party would back Remain in a referendum after "any outcome".

"What we have said is that any outcome now must be subject to a referendum, and in that referendum we would campaign for Remain," he said.

"Well, Jeremy Corbyn has very clearly said that any outcome now must be subject to a referendum and we would campaign for Remain. 

"It has been our position ever since he set it out and has been repeated ever since."

The comments came ahead of a meeting between opposition parties to try and build support for Mr Corbyn's plans to hold a no confidence vote in Boris Johnson's government, before installing himself as temporary Prime Minister in order to extend Article 50 and call a fresh general election.

But Mr Starmer distanced himself from the plan, saying the discussions should not be focussed on "fantasy politics".

"A vote of no confidence is something which the leader of the opposition has got to decide on when to call that," he said.

"But what I have been saying to colleagues over the summmer, and this is the spirit of Jeremy Corbyn pulling people today is, look let's put aside the kind of fantasy politics of who wants this and that. 

"We have got one week to make sure that, so far as possible, we have a plan that will be effective that we can put into action."


The Labour heavyweight also poured cold water on the suggestion that a vote of no confidence could stop a no-deal, saying he preferred a plan with a "bit of bite".

"I was very supportive of the measures earlier this year to pass legislation to prevent no-deal and I am very supportive of them now. I think they are direct, they are effective," he said.

"And I want something with a legal edge, because with a vote of no confidence, it goes into questions of conventions and who does this and who does that. The two aren't mutually exclusive of course, you could do the two together."

He added: "But I think there is a strong feeling, and I know Jeremy Corbyn is keen to do anything that does prevent a no-deal Brexit, but we need something with a bit of bite. We need something effective, and we need to do it straight away when we get back."

His comments are likely to strengthen the resolve of other pro-Remain MPs, including Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, who have said they would prefer to pass legislation blocking a no-deal exit rather than back a plan that would see Mr Corbyn leading a caretaker government.

In a letter to the Labour leader ahead of the talks, Ms Swinson wrote: "Insisting you lead that emergency government will therefore jeopardise the chances of a no-confidence vote gaining enough support to pass in the first place.

"As you have said that you would do anything to avoid a no-deal I hope you are open to a discussion about how conceding this point may open the door to a no-confidence vote succeeding. Its success must be the priority."

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