SIR Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary was asked by Andrew Marr on his show yesterday morning: ‘700,000 people marching in London yesterday. If you hadn’t been shadow Brexit secretary you would have been with them, wouldn’t you? ”Your neighbours, your friends, you would have been there as well. That’s where you are in your heart.’
He responded: ‘Well Andrew, I got a large cheer for setting out Labour Party policy which we had agreed. And what happened at Conference was that the Labour Party came behind a motion and agreed and it’s very straight forwardly structured, which is we’ll address the deal when we see it, if we see it and apply our conditions that I’ve set out.
‘If that falls and there really ought to be a General Election – and if it wasn’t for fixed term parliaments there would be – if there’s no General Election then other options must be on the table, one of which is a public vote.’ Marr continued: ‘Labour, given its six tests, would presumably be delighted to avoid the no deal and would support the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, wouldn’t it?’
He responded: ‘I think the proposition you’re putting to me is if the Prime Minister comes back and her own team won’t back her, will Labour step in and prop her up?’ He continued: ‘We’ve always said any support we give will be conditional, which is why we set out a number of tests at the beginning of the exercise, and we’ll obviously judge the deal against those conditions when it comes back.’
Starmer continued: ‘The difference at the moment is that all the Prime Minister is proposing is a temporary arrangement for a customs union. We say that should be the long term relationship. ‘So that there’s a big difference there. But at the moment I think there’s a real lack of confidence that she can bring back anything by way of a good deal.’
Marr responded: ‘I say again, this is about the national interest and avoiding what the Labour Party has called “the catastrophe” of a no deal break-up with the EU. ‘In those circumstances isn’t it in the higher national interest for the Labour Party to allow this divorce deal to get through the House of Commons and start to actually process leaving the EU?’
Starmer responded: ‘Andrew, it’s not in the national interest for anyone to back a bad deal and unless it satisfies our conditions then it’s going to be a bad deal. So there’s no national interest in backing a bad deal.’
Marr continued: ‘Well let me come to the Labour Party then and look at your idea which is that the UK could stay inside the customs union but as it were alongside the EU, negotiate free trade deals around the world. Yes?’ Marr asked: ‘Have you spoken to a single senior figure inside the EU – anyone in any authority who has told you this is a runner?
Starmer responded: ‘I have discussed it across the EU. I’m not going to disclose confidential meetings, but Andrew I would never have surfaced that idea if I’d not had those discussions, not only in Brussels but in other EU countries.
‘The idea of a customs union being made to work is something that people are very interested in and they would discuss. And it would be a million miles from where we are now. But I would never put that on the table if I hadn’t had those discussions.’