Labour demands parliamentary vote on Theresa May's 'hard Brexit' negotiation plan

The move could effectively sink plans to leave the single market

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Indy Politics

Labour has backed a plan for a parliamentary vote on the terms of Brexit negotiations, in a move that could sink the Government’s plans for a so-called “hard Brexit”.

Keir Starmer, the party’s shadow Brexit Secretary, said the “opening terms” of negotiations should be put to the Commons and voted on, warning that Theresa May was trying to “maneuver without any scrutiny in Parliament”.

The call comes after a cross-party alliance of MPs including Tories, Labour, SNP, and Green members joined forces to demand a vote on any plan to leave the single market – or the “hard Brexit”.

Those MPs, including Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry, told the Observer newspaper that there was “no mandate” for leaving the single market from the referendum result – where voters were only asked about the EU.

Though Labour’s frontbench has taken a different approach in calling for a vote on the opening terms of negotiations, the end result of such a vote could be the same as a vote on the single market.

There is thought to be a Commons majority in favour of staying in the single market and MPs who were against hard Brexit would likely use the opportunity to vote against any approach that could see Britain leave it.

“The referendum is clear and has to be accepted and we can’t have a re-run of the question that was put to the country earlier this year,” Mr Starmer told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“But, and it’s a big but, there has to be democratic grip of the process. At the moment what the Prime Minister is trying to do is maneuver without any scrutiny in Parliament. 

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Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit Secretary (BBC)

“That’s why the terms of which we’re going to negotiate absolutely have to be put to a vote in the House because if we can’t get the opening terms right we’ll never get the right result.”

He added: “It’s a question of accountability. If she can’t even get the confidence of the House on the opening terms then they’re probably the wrong opening terms.”

Mr Starmer, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, was appointed as shadow Brexit Secretary late last week in Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle.

The MP said he believed that Labour should be open to changing the rules around free movement that he believed immigration was too high.

He however warned that Ms May and her colleagues had taken “the wrong tone” in scapegoating foreigners for concerns about immigration.

Last month Brexit Secretary David Davis said the details of Brexit negotiations would be kept secret from Parliament so that the Government could get a better deal.

“Clearly there is a need for Parliament to be informed without giving away our negotiating position. I may not be able to tell you everything, even in private hearings,” he told the House of Lords EU select committee.

“I can entirely see accountability after the event, that’s very clear. In advance, I don’t think it’s possible for parliamentarians to micro-manage the process and wouldn’t give us an optimum outcome for the country.”

The Prime Minister added last week that though MPs would be informed at “various stages”, they would not be privy to precisely what her negotiators were doing

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