Keir Starmer: Only Labour can bring country together after Brexit
Sir Keir Starmer has said only Labour can “speak for the whole nation” after Brexit, accusing the party’s rivals of targeting one sect of the EU divide.
The shadow Brexit secretary accused the Liberal Democrats of pitching exclusively to the 48% who voted Remain, while he said Ukip and the Tories were pandering to a “group within the 52%”.
He made the comments after the Lib Dems claimed a surprise victory in a by-election against Brexit-supporting former Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.
Tim Farron's party turned the Richmond Park vote into a mini-referendum against a so-called 'hard' Brexit in the heavily Remain-supporting area.
Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr show this morning, Sir Keir said: “We are seeing a country divided more than we’ve ever seen it, more than I can ever remember.
"The Tories and Ukip are speaking only for a group within the 52%. They’re building a future around that group, and understandably the 48% feel they’re being written out of their own history."
He went on: “The Lib Dems have then taken the opportunity to speak to the 48% - they’ve got nothing to say to the 52%."
And he added: “Labour have members, we have voters and MPs in both camps and we have to bring this country back together.
“We cannot build on this divide, nor should we and somebody needs to bring this country back together, and Labour can do that by understanding the core reasons why Brexit happened.”
He also batted away suggestions of a “progressive alliance” with parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens.
“I don’t see how that alliance would work. The Labour Party has to speak for the whole nation," he said.
"This is a chance for us to pull the nation back together. You can’t hope to govern the country if you can’t speak to both sides of a divided country."
But Mr Farron hit out at the Labour party's stance on immigration, arguing it was a “little bit dog whistle-ish” as they seek to take on the rise of Ukip.
He told the same show: “They’ve made a choice between being a liberal centrist party that is seeking to win elections and to make a difference, and they are now retreating into a battle that they believe is a problem they have with Ukip in some of their heartlands.
"It does seem a little bit dog whistle-ish, which I don’t think Keir Starmer would naturally want to go down that direction”
'WE RESPECT THE OUTCOME OF THE REFERENDUM'
Elsewhere, Mr Starmer insisted Labour had accepted the outcome of the EU referendum, but said the party will push for single market access, branding a so-called 'hard' Brexit “very damaging”.
“We’ve always said we accept and respect the outcome of the referendum,” he said.
“Had it gone the other way, I would have expected that vote to be respected; that cuts both ways”, he told Radio 5Live's Pienaar’s Politics.
The Holborn and St Pancras MP also mooted the idea of restoring the meaning of 'freedom of movement' to signify the movement of EU workers who already have a job lined up in the UK.
He said: “The way freedom of movement operates [has] to be part of the negotiation.
"I personally think we should have a discussion on whether the rule should return to its origin, that being the freedom of movement of workers.”