Keir Starmer warns 'desperate' Theresa May that Labour will not back new Brexit vote
Labour will not back a fresh attempt by Theresa May to win support for her Brexit deal, Keir Starmer has said.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary hit out after Commons leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed the Government will stage a vote on Friday on its attempts to take the UK out of the European Union.
But in farcical scenes, she failed to confirm whether or not it will be the third meaningful vote on the deal negotiated between the Prime Minister and Brussels.
It is understood that ministers may try to separate the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement with the Political Declaration element of her deal.
Passing the Withdrawal Agreement on its own would allow the UK to stay in the EU until 22 May, with the Political Declaration being negotiated in the future by her successor as PM.
Downing Street also hope that the move would make it easier to win the backing of MPs, but Sir Keir insisted Labour would not support it under any circumstances.
Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce conference, he said: "The truth is, you can’t separate the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. And the Prime Minister knows it.
"On 14 January – when pleading with MPs to back her deal the first time round, she told the Commons there was 'absolute clarity on the explicit linkage between the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration'.
"The PM continued, saying that 'the link between [the two documents] means that the commitments of one cannot be banked without the commitments of the other. The EU has been clear that they come as a package'.
"And she was right. Because the joint letter from President Juncker and President Tusk on 14 January said: 'As for the link between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration….it can be made clear that these two documents, while being of a different nature, are part of the same negotiated package'.
"The Prime Minister and the EU know these documents cannot be separated. Yet now she may ask the Commons to pretend they can.
"But I want to clear – Labour will not support this latest desperate attempt by the PM. To now split the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration would leave us with the blindest of blindfold Brexits Labour will not countenance that."
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, of the pro-EU People's Vote campaign, said the Government plan was "utterly intolerable" and should be rejected by the Commons.
He said: "No one will be fooled by the latest antics from a government that will try every trick in the book to force its broken Brexit deal through Parliament.
"If it is really seeking to separate the Withdrawal Agreement from the Political Declaration, this would mean asking MPs to approve the terms of departure from the European Union without even the faintest clue about our eventual destination."
He added: "Any MP who cares about responsible government and the national interest or the future of jobs and public services in their constituencies will judge this proposal utterly intolerable."
Meanwhile, talks between the Government and the DUP were continuing as Mrs May tries to persuade them to finally back her deal.
DUP leader Arlene Foster last night insisted the backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland continued to put the integrity of the UK at risk.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We’ve always set out that we believe the deal is the best way of leaving the EU which protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom and means no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
"We’ve secured legally-binding changes to the backstop guaranteeing that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely."