Emily Thornberry angers pro-EU MPs by saying Labour will 'probably' back 'blah blah' Brexit deal

Posted On: 
29th March 2018

Emily Thornberry has been criticised by Labour MPs after she appeared to suggest that the party would still vote for the Government's Brexit deal even if it was “blah, blah, blah” and did not contain much detail.

Emily Thornberry faced criticism from Labour colleague Chuka Umunna
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister has promised MPs a meaningful vote around October after the Government has agreed the terms of a withdrawal agreement with the EU.

But the Shadow Foreign Secretary said the lack of progress made in talks between both sides so far meant it would it was unlikely to be very detailed - but that it would still be enough to pass the six tests Labour have said it must pass in order to gain their support.

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“I think if past evidence of the last few months is anything to go on, it’s going to be a ‘blah, blah, blah’ divorce,” she told an event at Chatham House.

“It’s not going to actually make any decisions, it's going to continue to kick things down the road. We don’t seem to have come to any difficult decisions at the moment.”

She added: “The difficulty is going to be with the meaningful vote in October, which we have secured, is that, what is it we are going to be agreeing on? We have our six tests.

“If you hold up ‘blah, blah, blah’ to the six tests, it will probably pass it."

A source close to Ms Thornberry tried to play down the significance of her remarks.

"Emily made clear, as we have done for more than a year now, that the Government needs to deliver a deal which meets our six tests, in particular by explaining how we will maintain current arrangements on the Northern Ireland border, and ensure all UK firms maintain the current benefits of access to the single market and customs union, the source said.

"We await to see if we will get any substantive answers on those questions by the time of the vote in October."

But her comments sparked anger from Labour MP and Open Britain campaigner Chuka Umunna, who said the comments were “extraordinary and unacceptable”.

“It’s an old-fashioned idea but it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government to account and that is what our members expect to see rather than blasé chat about ‘blah blah’ on the most important issue facing the country,” he said.

“The public will rightly take a very dim view of the Labour frontbench joining arm in arm with the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg and other Brextremists to vote for a Brexit which will cost jobs, damage living standards and leave our public services with less investment.”

The comments coincide with fresh claims from David Davis that by voting down the final deal, MPs would still fail to halt Britain's exit from the EU.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said the claims from both the Brexit Secretary and Ms Thornberry showed they were “taking Parliament for granted”.

“Our sovereign Parliament voted for a ‘meaningful vote’ on any Brexit deal and that is what we should get,” she said.

“MPs from across the party divide will rightly demand nothing less for our democracy.”

“Neither ‘blah, blah, blah’ nor tired rhetoric about ‘no deal’ is good enough.”