Tories must reveal Brexit plan before Article 50, say Labour

Labour have said Theresa May's government do no not have a mandate to decide the terms the UK leaves the EU. Picture: Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Labour have said Theresa May's government do no not have a mandate to decide the terms the UK leaves the EU. Picture: Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Labour will seek to force the Government to lay out its negotiating strategy before it triggers the formal process of leaving the European Union, the party’s shadow Brexit secretary has said.

Sir Keir Starmer insisted Labour did not intend to “frustrate” the process of invoking Article 50 in the wake of last week’s High Court ruling that Parliament was to have a say on the issue.

However, he said the party would insist on ministers presenting their negotiating plan to MPs before it launched the formal negotiations on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.

“The Labour Party accepts that the Government has a mandate to leave the EU. They have no mandate for the terms on which we leave,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

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“We will not frustrate the process by simply voting down Article 50 but we are absolutely clear that before we get to that stage the Government must put its plan before Parliament.”

Sir Keir made clear that once the Government had laid out its negotiating plan, Labour would insist on “discussions” in Parliament on the proposed terms.

“We can’t have a vote in a vacuum but we can’t proceed with this approach where the Prime Minister says ‘I hold all the cards to the future of the UK in Europe and its relationship with Europe and the world and I’m not going disclose even the basic terms to Parliament’. So of course we need that discussion,” he said.

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“We should be proceeding if we can on the basis of a consensus across Parliament, not forced divisions. That means we should try to agree the plans. Proceeding in this divided way is wrong.”

His comments came after Labour deputy leader Tom Watson was forced to declare that Labour would not hold up the process after Jeremy Corbyn had appeared to suggest they would seek to block the triggering of Article 50 unless the Government could guarantee continued access to the EU single market.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said it would be “foolish” for the Government to give away in advance its negotiating strategy on issues such as future access to the EU single market.

“All these choices are being framed in binary ways. The more everyone looks at the detail of this there are various ways you can approach thee single market. There are huge complications here,” he said.

He said no decision would be taken on how to proceed in Parliament until the Supreme Court had heard the Government’s appeal against the High Court’s ruling.

“The parliamentary process hasn’t yet been decided,” he told the Today programme.

“It is impossible to say what would happen afterwards in terms of the parliamentary process until we get the Supreme Court (ruling).”