LONDON (Labour Buzz) - When it comes to Brexit Sir Keir Starmer has maintained a monastic silence. Now some within his own party are starting to lose patience. With the Boris Brexit unravelling before our eyes, they want him to get tougher.
Speaking to the Observer Richard Corbett, Labour’s former leader in the European parliament, voiced the concerns.
“The idea that the Brexit issue is done and dusted is for the birds,” he said. “First, because Johnson’s deal is full of gaps that still need to be negotiated including on services and on fisheries.”
“Second, because where it has settled issues, it has done so badly, as shown by the crescendo of complaints from companies and others including musicians and students.
“And third because the government seems intent on seeking conflict with the EU, from threatening to tear up the agreement on Northern Ireland to departing from the level playing field commitments.”
Ben Bradshaw MP echoed these sentiments. It was right, he said, to concentrate on COVID 19. However, he added that, “with the mounting evidence of basic flaws and problems in Boris Johnson’s deal it is not going to be sustainable not to talk about Brexit for very much longer. Otherwise, what is the point of being the opposition?”
Dissent is also said to be growing in the parliamentary party. The time has come, many say, to stop giving the Tories a free pass.
It’s now around six weeks since the UK stumbled drunkenly out of the European Union. Since then, Project Fear has morphed into Project Reality.
Musicians have been left high and dry after the government rejected the offer of visa-free travel within the EU for touring British musicians.
The fishing industry has been devastated. While British fishermen struggle to sell their goods, European trawlers continue to enjoy substantial rights to British waters until 2026. Even those merchants who voted to leave have branded it a ‘nightmare’.
Even the government is advising businesses to set up shop in Europe.
It’s all a far cry from what was promised. Brexit would, Johnson promised, boost trade. There would be more money for the NHS and no border down the Irish sea. Disruption would be minimal.
However, so far Kier Starmer has watched this go by with barely a murmur.
A political trap
Supporters of Starmer feel that he may be walking into a political trap by coming out against Johnson’s deal. Having ordered his MPs to support the deal, they fear he’ll be accused of hypocrisy if he quickly attacks Johnson for its consequences.
If that’s the case then this is a mess of his own making. He ignored calls from those in his party to either vote against or abstain from the vote. Instead, he came back with the somewhat weak caveat that the bill had ‘serious flaws’ and that the Labour Party would expose its shortcomings.
“We will hold you to account for it. Every second you are in power. For the promises you have made. And the promises you break,” Starmer said.
After six weeks of silence, Labour’s MPs want him to be true to his word. Doing so would put him in line with public opinion. A comfortable majority of people now think Brexit was a mistake. Only a quarter of voters think it’s going well.
Never before has an opposition leader been so shy about voicing what the majority of voters are saying. Every day sees more evidence of the government’s incompetence. However, with the leader of the opposition feeling reluctant to oppose, none of that is hurting them at the polls.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)