Keir Starmer: Commons must be granted vote on Brexit terms.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary has demanded that MPs have a vote on the Government’s strategy for negotiating the UK’s departure from the EU.
Sir Keir Starmer, who was reappointed to the Labour front bench last week, said it would be a “disaster” if the Commons did not have a say on the priorities for the UK’s post-Brexit relationship.
He insisted the Government did not have a “blank cheque” after the referendum, and that MPs should be given a say on the “opening terms of the negotiations”.
“If you don’t even have the confidence of the House on the starting terms, then you are heading for a disaster,” Mr Starmer told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
He added: “The terms on which we are going to negotiate absolutely have to be put to a vote in the House, because if we can’t get the opening terms right, we’ll never get the right result”.
Mr Starmer’s comments echo those of pro-EU MPs who insist Parliament should be granted the chance to scrutinise the government’s negotiations.
Among the cross party group are former Labour leader Ed Miliband, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
Mr Miliband said it would be an “outrage” were MPs not to be consulted, while Mr Clegg said it would “not be remotely acceptable”.
Ms Morgan said MPs across the Commons would make “common cause” to press for the “right Brexit”.
She told Sky News: "There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of us in Parliament who do feel that it would be extraordinary – given that the Brexit vote was about the sovereignty of Parliament and of this country in terms of making our laws, that phrase of ‘taking back control’, whatever it means – for Parliament not to have a big say in the Brexit negotiations as they unfold, on the guiding principles, to be asking questions.”
In reference to retaining membership of the single market, Mr Starmer added that the vote to leave the European Union was not a vote for the Government to take an “axe to the economy”, which he said should take priority over matters such as the freedom of movement.
“It is astonishing that the Prime Minister is not putting the economy first. Economy, jobs and workers’ rights have to be the priority; how you negotiate and freedom of movement is a part of that but not to put the economy first is astonishing.
“Nobody, whether they voted to leave or remain, voted for the Government to take an axe to the economy, and the Prime Minister’s stance on the single market is making it nigh on impossible to have access to the single market, and that is a huge risk to the economy, jobs and working people.”
Mr Starmer also said he wanted to see immigration reduced, a contrast to the message from his party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told the party’s conference in Liverpool that he would not promise to cut immigration.
“There’s been a huge amount of immigration in the last ten years and people are understandably concerned about it; I think it should be reduced, and I think it should be reduced by making sure we have the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that need to be done.”
He added: “We have to understand what that concern is and address it in a way that is meaningful. What we shouldn’t do is fan the flames of division. That is the wrong tone for these negotiations...
“There is a skills shortage, this is a failure of government and has nothing to do with immigrants who get blamed.”