Keir Starmer denies ‘cakeism’ as Labour MPs slam Brexit policy shift

Written by David Singleton on 6 June 2018 in Diary

Chris Leslie, Ben Bradshaw and Wes Streeting have led the backlash.

There has been much chat about Boris Johnson wanting to have his cake and eat it on Brexit. But are Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer now taking a leaf out of the foreign secretary’s recipe book?

In a big move on Brexit, Labour is now backing “full access to the internal market of the European Union, underpinned by shared institutions and regulations”.

But while that might look like a softening of Labour’s position, it falls short of membership of the single market that many Labour figures are pushing for after the Lords backed a Norway-style membership of the European Economic Area.

"This is about peeling people away from the EEA amendment rather than a big change is position,” one sceptical Labour MP told PoliticsHome.

The suggestion is that Tory MPs will not vote for any Labour frontbench amendment calling for full access to the internal market. But they might yet be persuaded to galvanise around existing cross-party Lords amendment on EEA.

Leading Labour remainer Chris Leslie said: “If the frontbench are missing the opportunity to secure the EEA single market as a UK negotiating objective, there will be utter dismay and shock across the Labour movement.”

Former Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw said if Labour was serious about averting a hard Brexit then “we must vote for the existing backbench cross-party Lords amendment”.

Similarly, backbencher WeS Streeting stated on Twitter: "However worthy or well-intentioned the amendment put forward by Keir Starmer is, it has no chance of passing. Zero. None whatsoever. This is because potential Tory rebels are either concerned by its substance, or don’t want to be seen to be backing a JC amendment, or both.

"The EEA amendment put forward by Labour’s Lord Alli in the Lords can success - if, and only if, Labour MPs are whipped to vote for it. If we do, there will be more Tories than the ‘usual suspects’ prepared to vote for it."

On the Today programme this morning, Starmer sent a a coded warning to pro-EU Labour MPs when he said there were “very divided views” in the party about a Norway-style model and he was “injecting some honesty about where we are in the party”.

He said Labour’s new amendment was “essentially tying together the single market and customs union as a strong economic package which I think will be welcomed by businesses and trade unions”.

Mixing his metaphors, the shadow Brexit secretary also said accusations of “cakeism” on internal market reforms should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.

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