Sir Keir warns Theresa May: Labour will vote down your deal

PUBLISHED: 08:29 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:57 25 September 2018

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer talks to breakfast television. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer talks to breakfast television. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Labour is set to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal in Parliament, Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed.

Addressing Labour’s conference in Liverpool, the shadow Brexit secretary will warn that Tory “division, chaos and failure” over Brexit is putting the country’s future prosperity at risk.

“The party that once promised to fix the roof while the sun was shining now seems intent on burning the whole house down,” he will say.

His warning comes as Labour delegates at a gathering which has been dominated by wrangling over Brexit prepare to vote on a compromise motion to keep the option of a People’s Vote “on the table”.

Campaigners - who staged a march in Liverpool on the conference’s opening day - have welcomed the motion, which states that if Labour cannot force an early general election it will “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

But they voiced concern after shadow chancellor John McDonnell indicated that the leadership envisage any vote would be on the terms of a Brexit deal, with no option to remain in the EU.

With a Commons vote expected in the next few months, Sir Keir is set to say that Labour will oppose any deal which fails the party’s six tests, including delivering the “exact same benefits” of single market and customs union membership.

While stopping short of an absolute commitment to vote down May’s plans, he will tell delegates that it is highly unlikely any deal based on her Chequers blueprint could meet Labour’s tests.

And he will pledge not to back a “blind Brexit”, under which MPs would be asked to approve the £40 billion withdrawal agreement without being given a clear outline of future relations with Europe.

Sir Keir is expected to say: “Just when we need a strong government, what do we see from the Tories? Division, chaos and failure.

“No credible plan for Brexit. No solution to prevent a hard border in Ireland. And no majority in Parliament for the Chequers proposals.

“A Tory civil war that has gone on for years now threatens our future prosperity.”

And he will issue a message to May: “If your party wants to tear itself apart, that’s fine, but you’re not taking our country with you.”

Setting out Labour’s approach to the upcoming Commons vote, Sir Keir said: “If Theresa May brings back a deal that fails our tests - and that looks increasingly likely - Labour will vote against it. No ifs, no buts.

“And if the prime minister thinks we’ll wave through a vague deal asking us to jump blindfolded into the unknown she can think again.

“You can’t meet Labour’s tests by failing to provide answers. We will vote down a blind Brexit.

“Let me be clear: this isn’t about frustrating the process. It’s about stopping a destructive Tory Brexit. It’s about fighting for our values. And about fighting for our country.”

Sir Keir released an analysis of the Brexit blueprint agreed by the Cabinet at May’s country residence, which he said showed it failed to pass Labour’s six tests.

The tests demand: a “strong and collaborative” future relationship with the EU; the “exact same benefits” as single market and customs union membership; fair management of migration; defence of rights and protections; protection for national security; and delivering for all regions and nations of the UK.

Brexit minister Robin Walker said: “Labour seem determined to take us all back to square one by rejecting a deal out of hand then trying to delay Brexit and re-run the referendum.

“Labour promised to respect the referendum result, but are just playing political games and trying to frustrate it.

“This Conservative government is negotiating the right deal for the UK, one that promotes jobs and protects security and the precious Union between the four nations of the UK.”

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