Labour will have to vote for final Brexit deal to avoid crashing out of EU, shadow cabinet member suggests

Stance at odds with Labour’s policy to send Theresa May ‘back to the negotiating table’ if her agreement is rejected by Commons 

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 26 March 2018 12:19
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Labour’s official policy is to vote against the proposal unless it retains the 'exact same benefits' of EU membership
Labour’s official policy is to vote against the proposal unless it retains the 'exact same benefits' of EU membership

Labour will have to vote for the final Brexit deal because of the risk of crashing out of the European Union with no agreement, a key shadow cabinet member has suggested.

Barry Gardiner told an event in Germany that he agreed that a chaotic Brexit would be “the consequence of there being no deal”, according to a transcript.

The Shadow International Trade Secretary urged members of the European Parliament to consider voting for whatever agreement Theresa May strikes – even if they do not like it – implying Labour could do the same.

The comment is at sharp odds with Labour’s official policy, which is to vote against the deal unless it meets six tests, including that it retains the “exact same benefits” of EU membership.

Furthermore, the “meaningful vote” secured by the Commons before Christmas means the Government cannot enact the regulations required to trigger Brexit without the consent of MPs.

However, Ms May and other ministers have continued to insist rejection by MPs would mean crashing out with no deal – because the two-year Article 50 timetable expires on 29 March next year.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, has said defeat in the “meaningful vote” should see the Prime Minister “go back to the negotiating table” to achieve a better deal.

Others have even suggested it would force Ms May’s resignation and a possible attempt to extend the Article 50 timetable with the agreement of other EU nations.

At the event, hosted by German political institute Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Mr Gardiner was asked about what happens if either MPs or MEPs reject the withdrawal agreement.

The transcript, obtained by the Business Insider website, recorded him replying: “Let's look at the consequence of there being no deal. The UK will crash out of the EU. It’s exactly what the far right have been pushing for.”

Mr Gardiner added: “The European Parliament should consider very carefully before voting against any agreement, even if it’s not the agreement you want.”

The anti-Brexit group, Best for Britain, accused Mr Gardiner of “swallowing the Brexiters scaremongering”.

"The Government has been peddling ‘Brexit by Blackmail’ ever since the beginning of the negotiations, and the Labour Party mustn’t fall for it,” said chief executive Eloise Todd.

“We have two years to sort out our future relationship with the EU; if our Parliament rejects a government deal in October, we would have a few months to consider all options at our disposal, including staying in the EU.”

The Independent has asked Mr Gardiner to respond to the comments made, but has been unable to reach him.

In Birmingham today, Sir Keir will set out plans to toughen up Parliament’s control of the “meaningful vote” by tabling an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

“Our amendment would make it clear that, should the Prime Minister’s deal be defeated, it must be for Parliament to say what happens next, not the executive,” he will say.

Labour has also not definitively ruled out calling for a fresh referendum on the deal – although deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday it was “highly unlikely” that Labour would back it.

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