Labour frontbencher urges government ‘not to rush Brexit’ to ensure ‘the best deal’

PUBLISHED: 11:19 17 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:41 17 May 2020

Rachel Reeves on Sophy Ridge on Sunday. Photo: Sky News.

Rachel Reeves on Sophy Ridge on Sunday. Photo: Sky News.

Sky News

A senior shadow cabinet minister has urged the government not to “rush” Brexit negotiations - or the ending of the coronavirus lockdown.

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Speaking during Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Labour shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves said the government must ensure it takes all the steps required to get the best deal available from Brexit.

“I would say to the government the most important thing is we get a good deal, not any deal, but the best deal we can have.

“The last thing our country and our economy needs at the moment is a further shock that could put jobs and livelihoods at risk.

“So, don’t rush this, all of the attention of government at the moment is on fighting the coronavirus, that is the right thing, don’t rush this, take the time that is needed.

“But at the moment the government is saying we can still do this by the end of the year and we need to hold them to account to getting not just any deal, but the best deal we can, by the end of this year.”

She said Boris Johnson’s ministers must outline a new timetable if it cannot secure a good Brexit trade deal by the end of the year.

“We’re saying they mustn’t rush this and if they are not going to secure a deal, they mustn’t crash out without a deal - so that means taking the time that is necessary but it’s up to the government to show they can deliver on the promises they’ve made to the British people.

“That is getting a good deal and a good deal by the end of this year, and if they’re not in a position to do that they need to come back and explain a timetable.”

Asked how the talks were going, Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Well, but with one proviso.

“The proviso is that there is a big philosophical difference between the position that we take and the European Commission take.

“The European Commission want us to follow the rules even though we have left the club and the European Commission want to have the same access to our fish as they had when we were in the EU even though we are out.

“The challenge for the EU is to show just a little bit of their fabled flexibility.”

Rachel Reeves said Labour “absolutely do not want” the UK to exit the transition period in December without a deal.On coronavirus Reeves expressed concern the government only has two weeks to implement the “test, trace and isolate” strategy before its plan to reopen schools.

“We’ve got two more weeks before schools are set to increase the numbers of children coming in,” Reeves said, adding: “The government have got two weeks to put in place that ‘track and trace’ to publish the science and work with teachers, other staff at schools and parents to give them confidence.

“We’re not in that place yet. The government have got a lot more work to do to give that confidence that it will be safe to have more children coming into school in two weeks’ time.”

Reeves said abandoning the “test, trace and isolate” strategy in the middle of March was a “mistake” because countries which were successful in tackling the coronavirus had this system in place. By adopting this, Reeves believes any spikes in the virus can be tackled in specific areas of the UK.

She also said the government announced they want to bring back the strategy by the middle of this month – but it is now May 17 and progress seems to have not gone very far.

The Labour minister has also asked for more transparency from the government in order to ease people’s fears: “The prime minister said last Sunday that all the decisions that are going to be made about easing lockdown will be based on the science, and here we are a week later and those details have not been published, and that is a cause for concern, it adds to the anxiety amongst teachers, teaching staff and parents.”

Reeves said the government have contracted out the recruitment of people needed to contact trace coronavirus cases to “the private firm circle” - but only recruited on in ten people needed.

This is despite the fact that a lot more people should be recruited than the government’s target of 18,000, according to experts.

Currently, there are also problems with the contact tracing app trialled by the government in the Isle of Wight, such as it not working on old smartphones.

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