Sir Keir has taken the surprising move of declaring his support for the Government in its endeavour to secure a Brexit deal with the EU. Despite being an ardent Remainer, the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to whip his MPs to support Mr Boris Johnson in the final days of the Brexit negotiations. He has, however, faced staunch opposition from within the party.
Around 60 backbench MPs are reportedly keen to abstain from backing a vote, ready to rebel against Sir Keir.
The Labour leader announced yesterday that he did not back calls for an extension to the Brexit negotiations.
This was despite leading Labour figures like London mayor Sadiq Khan urging the Prime Minister to extend talks beyond December 31.
And while Sir Keir is coming under pressure from within his party, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that he is resisting those calls to the end.
He said this was clearly outlined in Sir Keir’s persistent and “straightforward” attitude towards Brexit that has “frustrated some people in the Labour Party and his own supporters”.
This strict political line, Prof Fielding said, will quell the voice of the “harping Remainers” for good.
He explained: “He’s been very clear that the 2019 result meant that no matter what he wanted, no matter what Labour wanted, the issue was decided, that Brexit was happening.
“He obviously wants Johnson to come back with a deal, he doesn’t want a no deal Brexit.
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“But there are people in the Labour Party that would have wanted him to keep harping on about Remain being a possibility in the future, but he’s resisted these calls.
“Starmer’s taken a strong position against these people, one that says, ‘Let’s just get on with it’ – something which currently mirrors that, generally, of the British public.”
Despite this, a Shadow Cabinet minister told The Guardian that there is a “feeling” Sir Keir might be swayed on abstaining from a vote on a deal.
Any move like this would, Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member, said, would ruin Sir Keir and the Labour Party’s chances of winning back power, and regaining the trust of those “Red Wall” voters – working class, North of England communities – in a future general election.
He told Express.co.uk: “I think any attempt by the Labour Party to rejoin the EU I think will be absolutely disastrous, I think it’d be fatal.
“For the foreseeable future, a good number of years, the Labour Party has got to accept that we’re out of the EU and there’s no going back in.
“And so everyone in the party has got to get that message.
“There are people in the party who are fanatically pro-EU, and it will go against everything that they believe in to accept that we’re out and we’re staying out, but they’ve got to.
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“If they’re serious about reengaging those lost Red Wall voters they’ve got to.
“And there’s no room for self-indulgence on this.
“We’re out of the EU, we’ve got to stay out of the EU, and any policy trying to get us back in would be a suicide mission.”
The main sticking points over an agreement are currently on EU fishing access to UK waters, and a so-called “level-playing field”.
Last night, the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, reportedly gave ground on fishing rights.
EU sources suggest the British demand for a 60 percent reduction in the catch by value in British waters had been reduced to 35 percent.
This is much closer to the 25 percent reduction that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had said he would be prepared to accept.
UK fishing groups have recoiled at the thought of this sort of leverage.
Fishing For Leave, an independent group of pro-Brexit fishermen, demanded that no leeway be given to the EU in the battle to maintain its rights in British waters.
In May, the group said: “Britain holds the whip hand, EU consumers need/are dependent on fish caught in British waters.
“We must not back down from being achingly close to righting the wrong inflicted upon fishing by [former Prime Minister] Ted Heath and regaining our greatest natural resource to exorcise an injustice and rejuvenate British coastal communities with a £6 and £8billion industry.”