Sir Keir: Extending Article 50 appears 'inevitable'

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Keir Starmer and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: PA Wire.

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Keir Starmer and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: PA Wire.

PA Wire/PA Images

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has told MPs that extending Article 50 and keeping Britain in the European Union for longer "may well be inevitable now".

Sir Keir said the government’s handling of negotiations had left the UK in a position where the only option appeared to be to extend Article 50 and cancel the March 29th deadline set by Theresa May.

The Labour frontbencher also said it was not “viable” for the UK to crash out without a deal.

Speaking in the Commons, he said: “There is a question of extension of Article 50 and that may well be inevitable now given the position that we are in, but of course we can only seek it because the other 27 have to agree.”

He questioned whether the EU would have any “appetite” to renegotiate even if Article 50 was extended.

He said: “I have to say and, with regret, I genuinely think that the way the Government has gone around the negotiations has undermined a lot of the goodwill that otherwise would have been there.”

Sir Keir, on a no deal, added: “I actually genuinely think we can’t do it on 29 March this year. It’s simply not viable, for so many practical reasons.”

The comment prompted father of the house Ken Clarke to ask whether Labour would work with Tory Remainers to ensure a “form of customs union and sufficient regulatory alignment to keep open borders” with the EU.

“We’re going to have to have a discussion, I think next week starting after Tuesday about where we go next and we’re all going to have to enter that in the right spirit,” Sir Keir said.

Labour MP Owen Smith said there could be no Labour Brexit as it would betray the party’s fundamental values.

“There is no jobs-first Brexit,” he said. “No Labour Brexit, no better Brexit, I gather the latest iteration is a sensible Brexit - well, there’s no sensible Brexit either.

“Brexit will eat the jobs, eat the capital - political and financial - that an incoming Labour government will need to implement the radical programme which my friends on the front bench are rightly advocating.

“Any Brexit is irreconcilable with Labour’s traditional social democratic mission and its twin foundations of providing equality and freedom.”

Labour MP Ian Murray, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said: “This is a hugely significant moment, marking the first time a shadow cabinet member has acknowledged that the shambolic Brexit process means the March 29 deadline is unrealistic.

“This is entirely the fault of Theresa May, who has failed to strike a deal that is acceptable to either Remainers or Leavers, and has delayed the vote in Parliament until the last possible minute.

“With the prime minister’s deal destined to be defeated next week, there is now an opportunity to stop Brexit for good through a people’s vote.”

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