Chuka Umunna: My battle to stop Brexit is not about Jeremy Corbyn

PUBLISHED: 14:52 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 12 April 2018

Labour's Chuka Umunna in conversation with novelist Henry Porter at the Should I Stay or Should I Go conference in central London

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Anti-Brexit MP Chuka Umunna has spoken of his frustration that many in the Labour Party see his battle as being about opposing Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour MP, who last month launched a coalition of forces including The New European to fight a Hard Brexit and push for the public to get a say on Theresa May’s final deal to leave the EU, was speaking at the Should I Say or Should I Go conference in central London.

The Grassroots Coordinating Group, made up of bodies representing more than half a million members, includes pro-Remain rebel and Conservative MP Anna Soubry, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson.

But speaking to novelist Henry Porter at the conference for EU citizens living in the UK, Mr Umunna said his fight was still viewed as being in opposition to his party's left-wing leader.

He said: "One of the things that infuriates me is the way in which sometimes my own people, my own party, people question your motives for adopting the position that you do.

"Unfortunately there are some people in the Labour Party who cannot see beyond any issue refracting around whether you are a big fan, or you're maybe not such a big fan, of the leader.

"And frankly, I don't care about the leader in this scenario, other than my party doing the right thing. Because this is actually about my family.

"You know, I'm a quarter Irish, I was celebrating St Patrick's Day watching the rugby with most of the Irish part of my family over the weekend. I've a French aunt, a Danish niece and nephew and brother-in-law, I have Spanish relatives - I am European as well as British." His last line won him cheers and applause from the overwhelmingly non-British audience.

Mr Umunna told them that there was "nothing inevitable" about Brexit and the process could still be stopped.

"We absolutely have got time to change the trajectory that we seemingly were on in the aftermath of that 2016 referendum", he said.

"And let's be absolutely clear - there is no legal or political impediment to Britain taking a view that is different at the end of this year when it's presented with the Brexit deal that the prime minister comes back with.

"We've had ministers basically lying in the House of Commons about this, and the Brexit minister Lord Callanan suggested that legally there was a reason we would not be able to revoke Article 50 in the House of Lords and he was forced to come back not once but twice to correct the record in the House of Lords, which is unprecedented.

"And it's absolutely clear when I speak to the heads of government, with prime ministers of the other member states of the EU27, that if we wish to take a different view on seeing what Brexit actually looks like then we are free to do so. And they won't stand in the way of us doing that.

"So this is not inevitable, folks. There is nothing inevitable about this at all."

The MP stressed that any successful campaign to stop Brexit would focus on the democratic need to get a vote on a final deal rather than just chanting slogans.

"Going around saying 'stop Brexit' is not a political strategy for getting to where we want to get to," he said.

"We have got to got to have the conversation with our fellow citizens... in the end, this is a democracy.

"And if you're making huge decisions and in particular there cannot be agreement in Westminster - I very much doubt there will be agreement around this deal - it's actually about you getting the vote on this deal. That is the route to getting to where we all want to get to.

"But shouting in ever-louder tones 'stop Brexit' - all the research tells us that that doesn't work. Or saying 'you were lied to' and giving the impression you were too stupid to understand what was happening. That doesn't get us to the promised land either.

"We have to make this a matter of democracy, because it is a matter of democracy as far as I can see."

Also due to speak at the conference today are Sir Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas, AC Grayling and Gina Miller.

Earlier today Ms Swinson said Remainers needed to get out of their echo chambers and stop "wrapping ourselves up in the European Union flag" to win over Leave voters.

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