Brexit: Labour accused of 'plotting to block Article 50'

Tory MPs accuse Labour of 'plotting to overturn the EU referendum' after secret recordings suggest party is still undecided on its position on Brexit

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Labour has been accused of plotting to halt Brexit after a senior ally of Jeremy Corbyn was heard saying the party "hasn't yet made a decision" on whether or not to stage a vote against blocking Article 50 in the House of Commons, despite previously saying it would not.

Conservative MPs described Labour as being "shockingly out of touch" for "plotting to overturn the result of the EU referendum" after Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s education spokesperson, was recorded saying the party was still undecided on whether to block Brexit, adding that she was "minded to vote against it" herself, according to the Daily Mail.

Speaking at a debate hosted by the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party on Sunday, Ms Siddiq reportedly said: "There’s two options. One is we vote against Article 50 and the Labour Party I should say hasn’t actually made a decision on what’s going to happen.

"This is what’s floating around the tearooms every night. Some of us will vote against Article 50, but not everyone, then it will still get through. The second option is that a lot of us vote against it, it doesn’t go through, the next step will be a General Election. I’ll be honest and say I have been minded to vote against it."

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer was recorded at the same event saying Labour should “keep its options open” on a second EU referendum – despite previously pledging that the party would not to black Article 50.

Sir Keir, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "If you’re going to have a second referendum, you’ve got to identify when you’re going to do it. I am clear that as a party we should keep our options open here because this is a process that is going to take us well, I think, into 2020."

In response to the comments, Conservative MP Dominic Raab, a member of the Exiting the European Union select committee, told the Daily Mail: "Labour are shockingly out of touch with the British people – but in plotting to overturn the result of the EU referendum, they have reached a new low. 

"They say one thing in public, and then the complete opposite at meetings of the Hampstead Labour Party. Only the Conservatives can be trusted to make a success of Brexit and deliver the right deal for Britain."

Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted she will invoke Article 50 by the end of March, beginning two years of formal exit talks expected to conclude with Britain leaving the EU in spring 2019.

Despite Labour’s official position being that it will not block Article 50 if it comes to the House of Commons, the views among MPs appear to be mixed.

Labour, in alliance with up to 30 Tory MPs and the other parties, has a potential Commons majority in favour of staying as close as possible to the single market, to protect trade and jobs – a so-called soft Brexit. 

In addition, more than 80 MPs, including a number of Mr Corbyn’s backbenchers, are said to be plotting to stage a vote calling for another referendum of the terms of Brexit, led by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently faced a backlash from senior Labour MPs after he urged the party to “embrace the enormous opportunities” of a withdrawal from the EU and accused pro-Europe MPs of siding with “corporate elites” – a charge normally levelled by Ukip.

While the Labour MPs who criticised Mr McDonnell insisted they accepted the referendum result, they said their party should avoid giving the Prime Minister a free hand to end free movement of people at whatever cost.