Keir Starmer says Labour will back new Brexit legislation if it addresses ‘substantial concerns’

PUBLISHED: 19:14 13 September 2020 | UPDATED: 19:14 13 September 2020

Keir Starmer is asked for his views on Brexit. Photograph: Sky News.

Keir Starmer is asked for his views on Brexit. Photograph: Sky News.

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Labour will back Boris Johnson’s new Brexit legislation if the prime minister addresses “substantial cross-party concerns”.

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The Labour leader accused the prime minister of having “turned the clock back” and of “reigniting old rows” by working to override his own Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Keir contended a free trade deal can still be struck with Brussels if negotiators from both sides “hunker down in good faith and break the logjam”.


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Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir threw down the gauntlet to Johnson as he faces a rebellion from within his own party by saying Labour could back the Bill with substantial changes to go help ministers “get on with Brexit”.

“Labour is prepared to play its part in making that happen. If the Government fixes the substantial cross-party concerns that have been raised about the Internal Market Bill, then we are prepared to back it,” Sir Keir said.

“But if they do not, and the talk collapse, then it is their failure and incompetence that will have let the British people down.”

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But the changes necessary to win Labour’s support are understood to be major, with it needing to no longer risk breaching international law and to address devolved administrations concerns of a “power grab”.

Sir Keir said ministers are facing a task “as ludicrous as it is frustrating” in telling the public to stick to rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus while defending the potential breach of international law.

“The priorities of the British people. We should be getting on with defeating this virus, not banging on about Europe,” the MP said.

“Get on with Brexit and defeat the virus. That should be the government’s mantra.”

Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling, however, criticised his remarks.

“He claims he wants to move on from Brexit, but he simply wants the British public to forget he spent the last four years trying to overturn what they voted for,” she said.

“Meanwhile, we’re focusing on securing a free trade agreement with the EU and building back better for the people of this country.”

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