Keir Starmer has told the Prime Minister to “get Brexit done” and said Labour would support the internal market bill if the government addresses “substantial cross-party concerns”.
In an article for The Sunday Telegraph, the Labour leader wrote: “The Leave-Remain divide is over. The country needs – and wants – to move on. That is why it is in the best interests of the British people to negotiate a trade deal with Europe.”
Starmer told readers that the government must fix the concerns raised about the internal market bill, adding: “If they do not, and the talks collapse, then it is their failure and incompetence that will have let the British people down.”
He described the move by the government earlier this week to propose a bill that would break international law as “wrong”, and highlighted that “many former leaders of the Conservative Party” have said so.
Starmer stressed that “public trust has been broken” as a result of the proposal. He also said Boris Johnson “risks holding Global Britain back” if the UK “cannot be trusted to keep our word”.
On Brexit in the context of the pandemic, the Labour leader wrote: “We should be getting on with defeating this virus, not banging on about Europe. Get on with Brexit and defeat the virus. That should be the government’s mantra.
“Labour is prepared to play its part in making that happen. If the government fixes the substantial cross-party concerns that have been raised about the internal market bill, then we are prepared to back it.”
The internal market bill sets out trading arrangements across the UK after the transition period. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted on Tuesday that it would break international law in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Welsh Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford slammed the proposed bill last week as a “smash and grab” on devolution, arguing that it would take back powers that have been devolved to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for 20 years.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, Labour’s Rachel Reeves urged the government: “Get Brexit done, get a deal, and concentrate please on getting control of this virus.”
The Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster confirmed that Labour would vote against the internal market bill unless the controversial clauses that break internal law were taken out.
Reeves said UK Labour had “concerns” over the proposals to take devolved powers back to Westminster, but added: “The crucial thing in this bill is the breaking of international law.”
Starmer’s emphasis on tackling Covid comes as leaked figures reveal that despite government claims of reaching capacity for 375,000 tests a day, the actual number of people tested daily is equivalent to just 62,000.
The data also shows that three-quarters of all tests miss government targets by taking longer than 24 hours from booking to result, and a quarter of test results take longer than 48 hours.