Labour MPs John McDonnell, Clive Lewis and Ben Bradshaw have come together with organisations and high-profile activists to urge Keir Starmer not to support Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal as planned.
The Labour leader confirmed last week that MPs in his party will be whipped to vote in favour of the post-Brexit trade deal freshly agreed by the UK government and the EU when it is put before parliament on Wednesday.
“Leadership is about taking the tough decisions in the national interest. It is about being a serious, responsible opposition,” Starmer said. “At a moment of such national significance, it is not credible for Labour to be on the side lines.”
While describing the deal as “very, very thin”, the opposition leader nonetheless said voting for it was “in the national interest”. He added: “We have to make a success of this, we have to make it work. It is far better than no deal.”
MPs including former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, along with academics, journalists, campaign groups and trade unionists have now signed a statement calling on the Labour Party not to back the deal this week.
The joint statement warns that the deal is “designed to open the door to rampant economic deregulation”, and tells UK opposition parties: “We are witnessing an act of vandalism against our livelihoods, our rights and our horizons.”
It is signed by Ben Bradshaw, who nominated Starmer as a leadership candidate earlier this year, and Blairite peer Andrew Adonis, as well as former Momentum national coordinator Laura Parker who once worked as Jeremy Corbyn’s private secretary.
A rebellion of at least 20 Labour MPs is expected later this week. A number of MPs have already confirmed that they intend to defy the party whip, including backbenchers Neil Coyle, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Rupa Huq.
Labour has criticised the government for providing little time for parliamentary scrutiny of the deal. It has also argued that the agreement is “underwhelming”, neglects the UK’s services sector and weakens security measures.
But, as Rachel Reeves wrote today, the party has concluded that “a bad deal is better than no deal at all”. Of the decision to back the deal, she said: “That is acting responsibly. It is putting the country first. It is choosing policy before politics.”
Below is the full text of the statement organised by groups Another Europe is Possible and Labour for a Socialist Europe.
After years of posturing and delay, Boris Johnson has finally announced that a trade deal with the EU has been agreed. The backdrop to the deal is a profound crisis, marked by the government’s mismanagement of Covid. Recent days have witnessed panic, job losses and chaos at the border, but rather than seek any form of extension to the Brexit transition period, the government has ploughed ahead.
This deal is a substantial downgrade of the UK’s relationship with the EU, and is designed to open the door to rampant economic deregulation – a loss of rights and protections for workers, the environment, food standards and many other areas of life. From January 1st, UK citizens will no longer have the right to live and work in Europe, and many European migrants who have made their home in the UK will face an uncertain future. Future trade deals could now entrench the privatisation of the NHS and other public services. We are witnessing an act of vandalism against our livelihoods, our rights and our horizons.
Given the government’s majority, it is a foregone conclusion that the deal will pass in parliament, but this deal will not ‘get Brexit done’: negotiations over trade and regulatory frameworks will go on and on for years to come. The vital task now is opposition: proper parliamentary scrutiny of this and all future trade deals, and the setting out of an alternative future in which we not only regain the rights and jobs we have lost, but become a better and more equal society. That task gets harder if opposition parties fall into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal.
We call on Labour, the labour movement and other opposition parties not to support the Tories’ Brexit deal when it is put to a vote in the House of Commons.
John McDonnell MP
Clive Lewis MP
Ben Bradshaw MP
Paul Mason, author of Postcapitalism
Laura Parker, former Momentum national coordinator
Tom Kibasi, economist
Sandy Martin, former MP for Ipswich
Alan Simpson, former MP for Nottingham South
John Austin, former MP Woolwich/Erith & Thamesmead
Anna Turley, former MP for Redcar
Michael Chessum, Another Europe is Possible
Sandy Paul, Labour for a Socialist Europe
Richard Corbett, leader of the Labour Party group of MEPs 2017 to 2020
Glyn Ford, leader of the Labour Party group of MEPs 1989 to 1993
Mary Kaldor, Professor of Global Governance at the LSE
Ana Oppenheim, Momentum national coordinating group member (pc)
Abbie Clark, Momentum national coordinating group member (pc)
Fran Springfield, co-Chair of Disability Labour (pc)
Joan Twelves, former leader of Lambeth Council
Shaista Aziz, Oxford Labour councillor anti racist activist
Zoe Williams, journalist
James Meadway, economist
Pat Murphy, NEU national executive (pc)
John Moloney, PCS assistant general secretary (pc)
Julie Ward, former MEP for the North West
Mary Honeyball, Former Labour MEP for London
Jude Kirton-Darling, Former Labour MEP for NE England
David Martin, Former Labour MEP for Scotland
Lynne Jones, Former Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak
Heather Wakefield, former Assistant general secretary of Unison
Valerie Bossman-Quarshie, Islington North CLP
Andrea Pisauro, Manifesto di Londra and Take a Break from Brexit
John Palmer, former European Editor of The Guardian
Niccolo Milanese, European Alternatives
Martin Shaw, sociologist
Chris Bertram, Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Bristol
Eleni Andreouli, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling, Open University
Luke Cooper, LSE Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit
Cat Villiers, film producer
Brian Channer, Lewisham East CLP
Andreas Wittel, Nottingham Trent University
Sally Brooks, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York
Kathy Bole, Suffolk County Councillor