Brexit: Labour MP accuses colleague of ‘sounding like Jacob Rees-Mogg’ amid party splits on leaving EU

In sign of growing tensions ahead of crunch EU votes, Chris Leslie gets into heated spat with former Europe minister Caroline Flint

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 10 June 2018 19:29 BST
Chris Leslie accuses Caroline Flint of 'starting to sound a little bit like Jacob Rees-Mogg' over Brexit

Labour‘s Brexit divisions have been laid bare after a pro-EU MP accused one of his party colleagues of ”sounding like Jacob Rees-Mogg” on leaving the European Union.

In a sign of growing tensions ahead of crunch EU votes this week, Chris Leslie got into a heated spat with former Europe minister Caroline Flint by comparing her to the prominent Tory eurosceptic MP.

MPs are gearing up for two days of clashes over the government’s flagship Brexit bill, where ministers are seeking to overturn a string of House of Lords defeats on key issues such as the customs union and a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

The Labour leadership tabled a parliamentary bid to unite the party by ensuring the UK retains “full access” to the EU’s single market and that would ensure “no new impediments” to trade.

The move is designed to convince potential Labour rebels not to support a Lords amendment to keep Britain in the European Economic Area (EEA), but pro-EU MPs said the move was “nowhere near enough” to unite the party.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, Mr Leslie said there was a “golden opportunity” for Labour to support the Norway-style deal and hit out at Ms Flint, who describe the EEA option as the “worst deal for the UK”.

He said: “The vast majority of Labour members, supporters, voters, all the polling shows… want to stay in the single market because they know in their workplaces, this is going to matter.

“Caroline is starting to sound a little bit like Jacob Rees-Mogg with the sort of notion that we should almost go for Brexit at all costs.”

Ms Flint said the negotiations would be over in “five minutes” if parliament backed the EEA amendment, as “Michel Barnier would bite the hand off” the government to get that deal.

She hit back: “I think when you are losing the argument, you go to desperate accusations.

“I think we are caught in a situation between hardline Brexiteers and hardline Remainers, many of whom want to overturn the referendum result.

“They are using mechanisms, they are using language, which is really seeking to undermine the result of that referendum.”

It comes as Tory Remainers and Leavers formed an unlikely alliance to urge Conservative rebels to back the government.

In a joint article in The Sunday Telegraph, Amber Rudd, who campaigned for Remain and Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith said the vote was “not about competing visions of the future but about ensuring legal certainty at our point of departure”.

“Jeremy Corbyn will do everything he can to stop us.

“That includes cynically trying to frustrate the Brexit process for his own political ends, as he will try to do next week when the Commons votes again on the EU withdrawal bill.

“So it behoves us all to demonstrate discipline and unity of purpose in support of the prime minister.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become divided.”

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