Manuel Cortes has called on the Labour leadership to end the cross-party Brexit talks, which he describes as “meaningless”.
The general secretary of the TSSA union, who has a record of pro-Corbynism but is also a fierce anti-Brexit campaigner, argues that the government will “never” sign up to Labour’s key demand of customs union membership.
Cortes has raised concerns about Labour “paying a heavy price” on the doorstep and in the upcoming European elections for engaging in the cross-party negotiations on Brexit, which have so far not been successful.
Manuel Cortes said: “We are just over a week away from the European elections and it’s now crystal clear that Theresa May has neither the authority nor desire to reach a Brexit deal with our Labour Party. As a good friend of our party’s leadership, I urge them to please pull the plug on these meaningless talks.
“May and her Tory cohorts have made it very clear they’ll never sign-up to our most basic and essential demand – a comprehensive and permanent customs union protecting the jobs of our people and preventing a hard border with Ireland; never mind alignment with the single market.
“I fear we are paying a heavy price on the doorstep for talks, which the government has used as a fig leaf for their Brexit failings. If May had any decency she would call an immediate general election.
“It’s time to bury this charade and fully concentrate on defeating Farage and his divisive, xenophobic ramblings. We can do that with our message of socialist hope in Britain and across our continent. Only Labour can stop the far-right from winning in our country on May 23rd.
“As a Brexit deal with the Tories won’t happen, Labour should have a clear message for the last days of the European election campaign – our party will fight tooth and nail for any Tory deal to be put to a confirmatory vote.”
The increased pressure from Labour MPs and trade unions on Corbyn to cut short the talks with the government comes as Downing Street has confirmed that the withdrawal agreement bill will be brought to the Commons early next month.
After PMQs this afternoon, the Labour leader’s spokesman repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of the party abstaining on the second reading of the bill, which would likely allow it to pass at that stage.
If the WAB did pass at its second reading, Labour could then table amendments in a bid to change the Tory Brexit deal so that it met Corbyn’s five demands including customs union membership and single market alignment.