Labour MPs told to put ‘national interest’ first amid Brexit rebellion

REMAIN-backing LABOUR MPs are being urged today to put the “national interest” first – and back Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal – as Sir Keir Starmer faces a high-profile revolt.

The call comes from Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet, as Labour’s leader comes under pressure for pledging his support to the new EU treaty shortly after the Prime Minister addressed the nation on Christmas Eve.

Sir Keir is understood to be bracing himself for a small number of Shadow Ministers to resign because they intend to abstain in today’s vote – or vote against the Government’s deal.

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However Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds is now backing his stance – sources suggest her loyalties have been said to be conflicted between the party leadership and her constituents in the pro-Remain Oxford.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves is urging Labour to put the national interest first in today's Brexit vote.

But John McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor, and ex-Cabinet Minister Ben Bradshaw are among the signatories to a statement calling on opposition parties not to support the “rotten” agreement.

The revolt has been orchestrated by Another Europe Is Possible and Labour For A Socialist Europe, but has attracted support from both wings of the still divided party.

As well as Mr Bradshaw, signatories include ex-Cabinet Minister Lord Adonis from the Blairite wing of the party.

From the left, Mr McDonnell is joined by Clive Lewis, another former Shadow Cabinet Minister, while Richard Corbett, a former Yorkshire MEP, has also endorsed the rebellion.

Sir Keir Starmer in Doncaster before Christmas - he is facing a Brexit revolt from his party after agreeing to back Boris Johnson's EU trade deal.

The statement warns that it is the duty of the Opposition to provide proper Parliamentary scrutiny and to set out an alternative. It follows on from criticism after Sir Keir ordered Labour to abstain in a key vote over new Tier arrangements for the Covid lockdown.

Labour is alone among the opposition parties in saying it will support the deal – with the SNP and the Liberal Democrats having said they will vote against it.

The DUP – which backed Brexit – has also said it will oppose the deal because the Brexit divorce settlement imposes customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But Ms Reeves, who is Labour’s primary Brexit spokesperson as Shadow Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, says voting in favour of the deal is the only responsible course of action.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell is opposing the Brexit trade deal in defiance of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

“Up against no deal, Labour will vote for this deal in the national interest. But the responsibility for it lies squarely with the Government,” she told The Yorkshire Post last night.

“We will hold the Government to account for the promises they have made to the people of Yorkshire and the whole country – and the promises they break.

“The next Labour government will seek to build on this deal. The job of redistributing power to the North and across the UK, securing the economy, protecting our NHS and rebuilding from the pandemic has only just begun.”

But the statement published by Labour’s Brexit critics accuses the Shadow Cabinet of failing in its democratic duty to scrutinise laws and set out a legitimate alternative.

“That task gets harder if opposition parties fall into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal,” it goes on.

“We are witnessing an act of vandalism against our livelihoods, our rights and our horizons. 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.”

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