Labour MPs under fire but vote for a plan hailed as 'vital'

PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 December 2016 | UPDATED: 11:00 08 December 2016

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer

PA Wire/PA Images

Keir Starmer said the vote was "vital" as Labour could now properly challenge the Government over Brexit strategy

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Labour has faced an onslaught from all sides after most of its MPs backed Theresa May’s plans to trigger the process for quitting the European Union by the end of March on condition the PM reveals her strategy.

The Opposition was accused of handing the Conservatives a “blank cheque” for Brexit after 149 of its MPs, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, trooped through the voting lobbies with the Government.

And Labour MPs who did not back the move were “named and shamed” on social media by the Conservatives for failing to “respect” the June 23 referendum result.

The Prime Minister took the wind out of the sails of a potential Tory rebellion in the symbolic Commons vote after conceding on Tuesday to set out the direction Brexit negotiations will take.

But speaking to The New European, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the vote was “vital” as it meant Labour could now properly challenge the Government over their Brexit strategy.

“Without a plan it is almost impossible for us to properly hold the Government to account,” he said. “Up until this point we have had nothing - they have been saying one thing one day and another the next. A plan will put an end to their obscure, half objectives.”

The one Tory voice of dissent came from Europhile veteran MP Ken Clarke. The former chancellor attacked May’s promise to reveal her plan saying it was “extremely vague”, and called for it to be set out in detail in a White Paper for publication before the invocation of Article 50.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused Labour and the Conservatives of a stitch-up.

“Labour and the Tories are holding hands towards a hard Brexit,” he said. “There should be democracy throughout this process, not a parliamentary stitch-up that denies the public a say over the final deal.

“It’s clear that only the Liberal Democrats are providing a real opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government and striving to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.”

The Conservative Party press office used its Twitter account to “name and shame” Labour MPs who failed to back the motion.

After each opponent’s handle, it added the phrase “won’t respect referendum result - Labour are out of touch with ordinary working people #BrexitDebate”.

Some 51 SNP MPs, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and five Liberal Democrats were among others to vote against the proposal.

• For full news and analysis on the vote buy The New European, on sale Friday

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