BREXIT may have to be delayed – one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest frontbenchers declared yesterday.
Sir Keir Starmer – Shadow Brexit Secretary – said it appeared “inevitable” Britain would have to ask Brussels to extend the Article 50 negotiating deadline.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman says Sir Keir Starmer may have been ‘speculating’
And he told MPs: “I actually genuinely think we can’t do it on 29 March this year. It’s simply not viable, for so many practical reasons. There is a question of extension of Article 50 and that may well be inevitable now given the position that we are in.”
Pro-EU Tories in the Commons immediately urged him to work on cross-party grounds to help break the deadlock. Earlier Austrian premier Sebastian Kurz conceded the EU would “consider” extending A50 to “secure” a deal with the UK.
Sir Keir’s incendiary intervention came on the eve of a keynote Brexit speech by Mr Corbyn in Leave-voting Wakefield, Yorkshire today.
Shadow Cabinet Ministers had already piled pressure on Mr Corbyn by saying Labour will have to “immediately” launch a no confidence challenge in Theresa May’s government the moment she loses her Brexit vote next Tuesday.
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Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner had said: “We’re now almost accepting that this will simply be defeated and voted down. Obviously the next thing to do immediately after that is for there to be a vote of confidence in the Government.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said Mr Gardiner may have been “speculating”. He said it was a matter of “when not if” a confidence challenge is tabled.
But he separately opened the door to Labour backing REMAIN in a snap General Election – given that it’s the Labour membership which helps set the manifesto. He said: “We are committed to respecting the result of the referendum. What our policy in a General Election would be, would be decided by internal party democracy.”
Insiders said Mr Corbyn would today step up demands for Theresa May to break the deadlock by calling a General Election. He will say that a Government with a new mandate can “negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament”.
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Pro-EU Labour MP Jo Stevens said Labour risked a catastrophic defeat with a pro-Brexit stance. And she urged Mr Corbyn to back a People’s Vote – in line with the conference motion passed at Labour conference last autumn.
She said: “The time has now come for the leadership to implement the policy so we are unequivocally seen to take the side of the majority of Labour members, voted and the public at large.”
Brussels has previously said it would only consider extending A50 in the event of a second Referendum or General Election.
Speaking in Berlin, Sebastian Kurz said the bloc would consider it to prevent a No Deal. Amid rumours UK officials have been sounding out the EU on the possibility, Mr Kurz said: “At the moment, it’s all about doing everything to secure passage in the UK Parliament and the EU Parliament. If that doesn’t happen, then we would need to consider this option, but now it’s too early.”