Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry today attacked Labour’s new position on the Single Market for being “identical” to that of Theresa May’s Government.
Speaking at the launch of an Open Britain report this morning, they warned that a failure of courage at this moment would not be forgiven by voters and urged Labour and Conservative MPs to “put the country first” - ahead of narrow political advantage by defeating the Government’s plans for a hard Brexit and backing the cross-party amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that aims to keep the UK in Europe’s economic area.
Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and Leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
“History will not be a kind judge on Labour if we reiterate the vision of a Conservative PM and her merry men of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg and the rest of them.”
Highlighting that a dozen Conservative MPs have this morning signed a separate amendment to the Customs Bill in support of EEA membership, he added:
“The amendment that has just been tabled by Conservatives is significant and illustrates that the question is now in the hands of the Labour front bench. These are quite extraordinary times.”
Speaking at the same event, leading supporter of Open Britain, Conservative MP Anna Soubry said:
“If you read the Labour amendment, you might think it had been crafted by Boris Johnson because it is perfectly representative of the cake-and-eat-it position of Her Majesty’s Government.
“It is imperative we stay in the Customs Union and we also need to be in the Single Market. I am sick and tired of ministers and others in my party who come up to me and say, ‘keep going, keep up the good work.’
“It’s not good enough to hide behind people like me. You have a duty to do the right thing. It’s tough but you have to put your constituents and the country first.”
Mr Umunna added:
“The language of the last 24 hours from Labour represents a change of tone perhaps but not a change of policy. More alarmingly it reflects the position of the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech.
“To all intents and purposes it reiterates the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech that was signed off by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.
“The idea that there is insufficient Conservative support for the cross-party amendment is nonsense. Nor do I accept there is insufficient support in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
“Membership of the EEA would turn Britain into a rule-shaper and I am not convinced by any of the arguments that it would block Labour’s plans.
“If the frontbench think EEA membership isn’t good enough at least adopt it as a starting point. A bespoke deal would take at least another three to four years by which time not only will be have left the EU, but the transition period would also have expired.”
In the week in which a man was jailed for making death threats to her, Ms Soubry also emphasised she did not take the decision lightly to defy a Downing Street edict over Brexit.
“I do this because I have a duty my constituency, to my country and to my children. My message to my colleagues is that it’s not enough to hide behind people like me. Your duty as an MP is to do the right thing.
“If there was a free vote on the House of Commons on membership of the EEA, a majority of MPs would vote for it.
“But too many will not speak out, they will not be true to themselves or do what they believe. We cannot allow this culture of fear to continue.”
Notes to editors
The Open Britain report on trade entitled Trade-Offs: The Harsh Reality of Going-it-Alone as ‘Global Britain’ can be read here.