A new Eurosceptic Labour group has been accused of acting as a front for the campaign to leave the European Union in the referendum vote.
Labour for Britain, which launched in June and says it picking up strong support from MPs, peers, councillors and activists, aims to “provide a space” for party members who support a “significant change” in the relationship with the EU.
But The Independent has found that it has strong links to Business for Britain, an organisation that is prepared to go further and argue in favour of a British exit from the EU. The Labour group also has ties to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which has variously argued for further benefits cuts, reducing pensions and eroding trade union rights.
Labour for Britain is co-chaired by MPs Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins and Graham Stringer, while the millionaire party donor John Mills acts as its secretary. A number of prominent new supporters are expected to be announced at the Labour conference in three weeks’ time.
The group’s website says it will push for “changes which ensure that our laws are made in London rather than Brussels”. It continues: “Labour voters want to see reform and the Labour Party should champion their wishes.”
However, its origins indicate it has connections well outside the Labour fold. To the surprise of senior party figures, its website is registered in the name of Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of Business for Britain and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. It is registered at 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, the same address as Business for Britain and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
A Labour source said: “This isn’t a forum for debate but a front for people who want to erode workers’ rights and raise taxes on families while cutting them for millionaires. I’m shocked Labour MPs would work hand-in-glove with those whose policies run counter to the beliefs of our party.”
Brendan Chilton, the director of Labour for Britain, said the website would shortly be registered to Mr Mills.
“It just was a simple case in the very early days that we needed to get a domain set up and the website purchased, and Labour for Britain at the time hadn’t been established all too long and so we worked with Matthew Elliott to get that done,” he said.
Mr Chilton acknowledged it “certainly can appear” the group is a front for a pro-“Brexit” campaign, but he added: “Our activities to date [show] we are primarily a group that says the Labour Party ...will press for reform.”
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He said it was “a very much distinct campaign” and was operating within the Labour movement.
But Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, said: “I think Labour supporters will be very surprised to see that this group is so close to strongly anti-Labour forces. It makes you wonder how Labour this group can be.”
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