David Miliband accuses Labour of 'dereliction of duty' over Brexit

Former foreign secretary says his party has 'no strategy' on EU withdrawal and should back Final Say referendum

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Saturday 22 September 2018 14:39
Comments
How to Brexit-proof your life

David Miliband has accused Labour of a “dereliction of duty” over its refusal to back calls for a final say on Brexit.

Speaking on the eve of the party’s annual conference, the former foreign secretary said Labour had “no strategy” for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The issue is expected to dominate the gathering in Liverpool, with Jeremy Corbyn facing mounting pressure to support a public vote on whatever deal Theresa May negotiates with Brussels.

Grassroots activists hope to use the conference to force a change in policy towards backing a final say referendum.

It comes after Theresa May admitted negotiations were at an “impasse” and warned that the UK would leave the bloc without a deal unless EU leaders agree to compromise.

Mr Miliband, a former Labour leadership candidate, told BBC Radio 4 Today: “Labour has got to be much, much stronger. The truth is that waiting for the government to foul up is no strategy at all. The country desperately needs a strong government but it also need a strong opposition.

“Labour’s tragedy over 20 years – and I include my own period in this – is that there was almost a complacency about Europe. The Tory tragedy was to be obsessed about Europe and the Labour tragedy was to be complacent about Europe.”

He added: “Finally the complacency is breaking, at least at the constituency level of the Labour Party, but it’s an absolute dereliction of duty for the Labour Party leadership not to embrace the fundamental principle that since the Brexit that people were sold two years ago is not available, it’s essential that the Brexit deal the prime minister does is put to people.

“The most corrosive thing in the long term will be a Brexit on terms that were missold.”

Mr Miliband predicted Ms May would “eke out” a “paper-thin deal” with Brussels and then “use the threat of no deal and the disaster that represents to try to bludgeon people to support it”.

He said: “No-deal is obviously a terrible disaster for the country.

“Theresa May has painted herself and painted the country into a corner. We’re now in a situation where the contradictions and the delusions of Brexit are coming home to roost. There is no Brexit where you can have the benefits of the European Union without living by their rules.”

But speaking to Today, Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities minister, defended her party’s handling of Brexit.

She said: “Labour has been absolutely clear and steadfast from the very beginning.

“[Shadow Brexit secretary] Keir Starmer and his Brexit team looked at all of the paperwork in detail and from that he developed six tests, and from that he talked about having this relationship with the customs union.”

She added: “If Theresa May brings back a deal that doesn’t meet our six tests, we will not vote for it. We’ve been very clear about it.”

Ms Butler said Labour wanted to see a general election rather than another referendum.

She said: “Our priority is making sure that we are not worse off – that we have a jobs-first Brexit, that we protect the rights of people in our country and services for people in our country.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in