EXCL Top Barry Gardiner aide causes fresh Labour row over EU/Canada trade deal
A senior Labour official sparked a fresh row today by encouraging the party's MEPs to oppose an EU/Canada trade deal which was last week backed by its MPs.
John Hilary, Labour's head of trade policy and an aide to Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner, spoke out as the European Parliament prepared to vote on the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
PoliticsHome revealed last week how Mr Gardiner had stunned colleagues by forcing a Commons vote on the deal.
In a major embarrassment for the frontbencher, Labour MPs then ignored his pleas for them to reject CETA by voting 85 to 68 in favour of it.
The extent of the anger directed at Mr Gardiner was apparent from messages contained in a WhatsApp group used by Labour MPs, and leaked to PoliticsHome.
One said: "What on earth are you talking about Barry? What an embarrassing shambles. I didn't think our position could get any more absurd, but you have managed it."
On Twitter this morning, former War on Want executive director Mr Hilary urged all members of the European Parliament's Socialists and Democrats Group - which includes Labour MEPs - to vote against CETA.
The European Parliament later voted 408-254 in favour of CETA, even though a majority of Labour MEPs are believed to have voted against the deal
A defiant Mr Hilary tweeted "a luta continua", or "the struggle continues" - the rallying cry of the Frelimo movement during the Mozambique war of independence.
Furious Labour figures at Westminster demanded Mr Hilary be investigated by party bosses.
One senior party insider said: "Labour MPs made clear what they thought of Barry Gardiner and his advice on CETA last week. Now his adviser is trying to interfere in the whipping arrangements of the European Parliament Labour Party to influence Labour MEPs.
"It's an embarrassing, unusual and highly inappropriate public intervention by a paid member of Labour party staff, which the general secretary should immediately investigate."
In a further sign of the Labour splits on the issue, Scottish MEP David Martin welcomed CETA.
He said: "CETA is a progressive agreement for Europe and for the UK. Together with our Canadian allies we are standing firm against growing global protectionism, championing open trade in a time when others are losing faith.
"Behind the scenes, MEPs have been fighting the corner of EU citizens to secure unprecedented changes to the final text, safeguarding our high standards, public services, workers’ rights and global environmental protection. CETA is not the perfect deal, but we can look back and be very proud of what we have achieved in this process."