Labour ‘will not hold up Brexit process’

Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn.
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Labour’s deputy leader has insisted the party will not try to hold up the process that starts the UK’s divorce talks with the European Union.

Jeremy Corbyn appeared to suggest in an interview with a Sunday newspaper that he would block plans to trigger Article 50 if the Prime Minister did not guarantee access to single market.

But Labour sources later said that the party’s support for invoking the process was “unconditional” and they would only “seek to amend or influence” the Government’s negotiating strategy.

Deputy leader Tom Watson insisted the party would support Prime Minister Theresa May when she triggers the process.

He told BBC 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “We are not going to hold this up. The British people have spoken and Article 50 will be triggered when it comes to Westminster.”

“Ultimately when the vote comes Labour will support Theresa May to trigger Article 50.”

Mr Watson said he had not discussed the confusion around Labour’s position with Mr Corbyn.

“We missed each other on the phone today,” he said. “But we are very, very clear we will trigger Article 50 when it comes to Parliament so there is no need for people to be in any doubt about it.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, one of Mr Corbyn’s allies, said it was not the party’s position to block the process.

He told BBC One’s Sunday Politics: “Labour won’t be blocking the triggering of Article 50. What we will be setting out is the fact the Britain needs a plan.”

Jeremy Hunt said he believed Parliament would fall into line when asked to approve starting the exit process.

The Health Secretary has also played down speculation that unrest over Brexit will lead to an early general election, insisting it was the “last thing” voters wanted.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The impact on the economy will be far worse if through some Parliamentary mechanism Theresa May is forced to lay out her entire negotiating strategy.

The Government must be given “latitude” to make a deal with the EU.

“The Government has said that it’s highly likely that Parliament would ratify any deal that was agreed about the terms of our exit,” he said.

Mr Hunt told the programme he had been a Remainer until June 23. “After that I became a democrat,” he said.

“For people worried about the impact of Brexit on the economy or whatever else it is, the damage to the fabric of our democracy would be far, far worse if people felt the establishment was trying to unpick a decision that was made.”

“I think a general election is frankly the last thing the Government wants. Theresa May wants to get on with the job and frankly it is the last thing the British people want, with all these very, very important national decisions.

“Because of that I think it is highly unlikely that Parliament would not, in the end, back a decision to trigger Article 50.”

Mr Corbyn said the UK must have continued access to the single market and there must be no watering down of workers’ rights before Labour will back the process.

He also wants protections for consumers and the environment and a promise that the cost over lost investment is covered by the Government.

The Labour leader told the Sunday Mirror: “The court has thrown a big spanner in the works by saying Parliament must be consulted. We accept the result of the referendum.

“We are not challenging the referendum. We are not calling for a second referendum. We’re calling for market access for British industry to Europe.

“If the Government calls an election we’re ready for it,” he added.

“We have the members, the organisation and the enthusiasm. We welcome the challenge.

“It would give us the chance to put before the British people an alternative economic strategy for this country.”