Former Labour frontbencher savages 'depressing' Barry Gardiner as party's Brexit splits grow
A senior Labour MP has launched a withering attack on Barry Gardiner for claiming the UK must quit the single market and customs union after Brexit.
In a further sign of Labour's splits over Europe, former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander accused Mr Gardiner of taking his arguments "straight out of Tory Central Office".
The Shadow International Trade Secretary said at the weekend that staying in the customs union after leaving the EU would be a "disaster" for Britain.
He has subsequently been slapped down by Jeremy Corbyn, with a spokesman for the Labour leader saying it was wrong to "sweep options off the table".
Labour sources have told PoliticsHome that Mr Gardiner's comments had caused "consternation" among the party's MPs.
Writing for The Guardian, Ms Alexander - who was the first of nearly 60 shadow frontbenchers to resign last summer as part of an attempt to oust Mr Corbyn - said: "Thirteen months may have passed since the EU referendum, but I have never felt more concerned than I do today about my party’s position on the biggest issue facing our country.
"My colleague Barry Gardiner’s contribution to the Brexit debate, in which he argues for the UK to come out of the single market and customs union to facilitate Brexit was, for me, depressing and disingenuous in equal measure.
"I like Barry. He’s intelligent and witty – but I think he is fundamentally wrong on what Labour’s Brexit policy should now be.
"He starts by asserting the reasons he says people voted for Brexit last year – a list that could have come straight out of Tory Central Office – sovereignty, immigration and the European court of justice. But what about the false promise of large amounts of extra money for the NHS?"
She added: "It was only back in December that Barry was quite rightly mocking arch-Brexiteer and Tory MP Bill Cash by suggesting that he should add “No to prosperity and jobs” to his list of “No to the single market. No to the customs union. No to the European court”.
"I agreed with Barry Gardiner then; I’m afraid I don’t now."
In a further sign of Labour's splits on Brexit, Ms Alexander's comments were praised by other pro-Remain MPs.
Conservative MP Mims Davies MP said: "Corbyn’s Labour can barely go a week without their position on Brexit becoming even more confusing.
"When Labour’s Shadow Cabinet are taking an individual stance on one of the biggest issues facing this country – how can they be trusted to unite to get the best deal for Britain?
"While Labour decide on their position we are getting on with the job of negotiating the best Brexit deal so that we build a better country for future generations."