Keir Starmer: You can’t doubt my commitment to a public vote on Brexit
Holborn and St Pancras MP did not join constituency members on People's Vote march
24 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley
HOLBORN and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer insisted this morning (Sunday) that the Labour Party does support a new public vote on Brexit, as he faced questions over why he did not join a million-protester march through London.
The shadow Brexit secretary was among Labour frontbenchers, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, who stayed away from the people’s vote demonstration yesterday (Saturday) even though the party resolved at its autumn conference that a referendum would be an option to break the United Kingdom’s deadlocked EU negotiations.
Labour had said during its get-together in Liverpool that it would push for a new national vote as a second preference to a general election. With no election called, Labour is under pressure to now provide enthusiastic support for the so-called ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.
During his latest appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Starmer was asked whether the party position was clear: given Mr Corbyn was in Morecambe at the time of the march, leaving his deputy Tom Watson to address the crowd.
Mr Starmer told the BBC interviewer: “I don’t think anybody can doubt my commitment to the public vote of the conference policy we adopted in September so I salute the fact the march was as big as it was.”
Pressed repeatedly on whether Labour wanted a new referendum or one would be guaranteed should the party come to power, Mr Starmer said: “That’s a question for the manifesto. Every time you ask me about the manifesto, I say we work it through. But let me be as clear as I can: We had a manifesto commitment last time, in 2017, setting out the sort of deal we’d negotiate. We then supplemented that with our conference policy, that in the event of an impasse we’d have a public vote. I would expect our manifesto to build on those commitments, in relation to the type of deal and a public vote.”
More than a quarter of electors in Mr Starmer’s parliamentary constituency in the south of Camden have signed an online petition calling for the revocation of Article 50, effectively a cancellation of Brexit altogether.
Mr Starmer said: “What the party has said is that there must be a public vote; we said we’d either put down an amendment ourselves or support an amendment – and that needs to be between ‘a credible leave option and remain’. When we spelt this out in a front bench amendment about eight weeks ago we said: What we mean by that is a deal or proposition that has got the confidence of parliament. So if a deal goes through, if the Prime Minister’s deal – if she tries it a third time – goes through, it ought to be subject to a lock or a check, which is that it’s got to be confirmed by the public.”
He added: “Given the situation we are in, that’s the least we now would expect.”
Asked again whether Labour would call for a public vote on any deal – even one they might have put forward – Mr Starmer said: “The proposition is, that any deal that this Prime Minister is going to get through parliament ought to be subject to a public vote, is one that we support. That’s why we’ve said we’ll either lay our own amendment or support an amendment to that end.”
Conservative councillor Henry Newman, who supports Brexit and is a regular pundit on TV news channels, said: “After Keir Starmer’s interview on Marr, we don’t know Labour’s policy on when Brexit should happen, whether Brexit should happen, what compromise Labour will press for, if they will back [Mrs’s May’s] deal with customs union on top and what their policy would be in an election.”