A former leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party has warned Keir Starmer’s party not to put itself “on the wrong side of public opinion” with the vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Richard Corbett, former Labour MEP, has urged his party not to vote in support of the agreement, which would put it on the same side as pro-Brexit right-wingers.
Writing for LabourList, he said: “It would put us on the wrong side of public opinion. Recent polls have shown a record majority saying Brexit itself was a mistake. Even more will be critical of Johnson’s incompetent deal. Those criticisms are likely to grow as the consequences bite.
He added: “This is true across the country, even in the ‘Red Wall’, but perhaps especially so in Scotland where Labour risks being outflanked by the SNP.”
Instead, he has recommended Starmer looks to encourage his MPs to abstain to avoid risking no-deal Brexit, but allowing the deal to get through even with a Tory rebellion.
He warned that endorsing the deal would be support for the same aspects of Brexit “that we so strongly criticised for the last three years.”
“We can’t suddenly say with any credibility that it’s ok after all.
“The argument that we have to vote for it to avoid a ‘no deal’ outcome doesn’t stand up: it will be carried in the House of Commons if we abstain (and almost certainly even if we vote against).
“This is simply about whether Labour endorses something it previously denounced. It would make our previous opposition to Theresa May’s and Boris Johnson’s deal look as though it was simply playing tactical games in the Commons.”
Corbett said that voting for the deal would be an endorsement for a prime minister who threatened to break international law, and would also alienate large numbers in the party.
He joins former Downing Street director of communications Alastair Campbell in warning Labour will get nothing back for supporting Johnson in the Commons.