Pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as Sadiq Khan urges MPs to be 'brave' and back soft Brexit
London mayor Sadiq Khan has heaped fresh pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to back a Norway-style soft Brexit, as he urged all MPs to be “brave” enough to back a string of Lords amendments on the issue.
Rebellious peers last month added 15 amendments to the Government’s flagship Brexit bill, including a call for Britain to effectively remain in the single market by joining the European Economic Area.
While not completely ruling out EEA backing, Labour frontbenchers have so far said that staying in the trading bloc would leave the UK too closely aligned to the EU and force it to accept rules drawn up in Brussels with no say in their development.
But Mr Khan told The Guardian that MPs across the House now faced the most significant Parliamentary moment since the 2003 Iraq war, and urged them to put aside career interests in a bid to soften Brexit.
“The last vote of this significance was the vote on the Iraq war – when there were brave MPs from all parties who did the right thing and voted against the war regardless of the consequences,” he said.
He added: "Parliament has the opportunity to reject the Tories’ shambolic and reckless handling of Brexit and preserve our prosperity for the next generation – if MPs are brave."
Mr Corbyn was hit by a huge Lords rebellion over the issue last month, when 83 Labour peers defied the party whip to support being in the EEA.
Following the vote, the Labour leader's spokesperson appeared to rule out backing for a Norway-style soft Brexit, saying such an option was "not appropriate and will not work for the kind of Brexit that we want to see".
But a number of shadow ministers have since said that the party has not taken the EEA option "off the table", and MPs including Chuka Umunna have urged the leadership to throw its weight behind a soft Brexit.
Mr Khan's intervention was welcomed by the Liberal Democrats, which said it was “encouraging that such a prominent figure within the Labour party” had backed the Lords amendments.
"The sensible voices within Labour and the Tories must speak out, stand alongside the Liberal Democrats and push for a final say on the deal and an opportunity to Exit from Brexit," the party's spokesperson Tom Brake added.