Boris Johnson’s plot to exploit Keir Starmer on Brexit – will excite northern Leave voters

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During his tenure as Shadow Brexit Secretary under the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir was a strong advocate of holding a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU before the general election in 2019.

But those plans collapsed after Labour was crushed in the election, with the Prime Minister finally able to get his Brexit deal voted through Parliament and deliver on his promise to “Get Brexit Done” on January 31.

Since becoming Labour leader on April 4, Sir Keir has remained strangely silent on Brexit, and did not even advocate an extension to the transition period beyond December 31.

The Labour leader’s stance will likely continue for the rest of the year and Sir Keir will instead “come up with an attack designed to satisfy most reasonable Remainers while appealing to the largest number of Leavers possible”, it has been claimed.

He will likely employ a strategy to focus on the mistake made by the Conservatives, which will continue all the way through to the next general election, which isn’t scheduled to take place until 2024.

The Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis will be central, as will Brexit, depending on the fallout from the UK’s departure from the EU.

In a blog post for The Spectator, Nick Tyrone said: “Passionate Remainers complain that Starmer hasn’t been anti-Brexit enough since he became leader – where was the plea to extend the transition period?

“Many Leavers grumble that the general election settled the Brexit question once and for all and that Starmer should come out and say that Britain leaving the EU was a good thing.

“He has done neither or these things and I don’t think he will say anything about Brexit for the rest of this year.

“Instead, he will most likely come up with an attack designed to satisfy most reasonable Remainers while appealing to the largest number of Leavers possible.”

Sir Keir could argue the Tories left Britain in the doldrums, and if elected as Prime Minister, could look to return to the negotiating table with Brussels in search of a revised Brexit deal that would create jobs throughout the country.

It would also constitute something looking a Norway-plus deal, meaning Britain would be forced to rejoin the single market and customs union.

This could be a prudent strategy if there has been a negative impact on the UK economy that is still being felt by the next general election in 2024.

But The Spectator has identified a major problem if Sir Keir should decide to impose this strategy, warning the Conservatives “could frustrate such a cunning plan by creating facts on the ground”.

The Tories could counter by creating jobs in critical constituencies, especially in the North, where Labour still holds a significant presence, meaning Sir Keir’s pledge for the UK to re-join the single market “would then take on a different quality”.

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The publication wrote in an editorial on Sir Keir’s possible plan: “That sounds neat, but ignores that the Tories could frustrate such a cunning plan by creating facts on the ground, or rather by creating jobs that are reliant on regulatory divergence.

“The impact would be stronger if those jobs were created in critical constituencies, especially in the North. A pledge to re-enter the single market would then take on a different quality.

“We would be discussing steel jobs versus AI jobs rather than jobs versus no jobs. Judging by the shambles of government policy right now, that would require a new sense of purpose and seriousness that seems to be widely absent so far.

“On the other hand, failure to develop a strong post-Brexit and post-pandemic industrial strategy would be potentially fatal to this administration, which is why they will probably attempt to do it.

The UK and EU opened Brexit talks in March but so far have made little progress, with both sides’ refusal to give ground on a number of red lines including fishing access, the EU’s level playing field and state aid proving to be huge stumbling blocks.

The latest round of negotiations resume in Brussels this week, with both sides insisting they are committed to reaching a deal over the coming weeks.

On Tuesday – just hours before the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost meets Brussels counterpart Michel Barnier for dinner in the Belgian capital – the EU warned a trade agreement must be achieved “in October at the latest” if it is to be ratified in time.

A spokesman said: “The important thing to note – and I would point you first of all back to what Michel Barnier himself said in London at the end of the last round of negotiations – that, first of all, we want a deal, we want to have an ambitious and fair partnership with the UK, and that we must come to an agreement in October at the latest.

He added: “This week and over the coming weeks we will remain constructive, we will remain engaged and respectful with the UK negotiating team in order to reach a deal.”

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