Theresa May running down the clock on Brexit, Starmer says
Labour MP visited Dublin and met unions, businesses and Tánaiste Simon Coveney
UK shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer speaking to the media before holding a series of meetings in Congress House in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
The British Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman has warned that Theresa May is “running down the clock” towards Brexit and restated his party’s promise to put a second referendum “on the table”.
Keir Starmer was in Dublinon Monday for a series of meetings with business, trade union and political leaders including Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
“I’m very concerned now with 46 days to go that the prime minister appears to be just running down the clock,” he told journalists at the headquarters of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“Mindful as I am that the next EU summit is the 21st of March, and if she’s trying through chunks of two weeks to run the clock down, then I think parliament has to step in with a hard stop and say we’re not going to accept that.”
The House of Commons is due to hold votes on Mrs May’s Brexit plan this week, with the prime minister due to outline her plans to MPs on Thursday.
Amid reports that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to a second referendum, Mr Starmer — seen as a champion of a “people’s vote” in Labour — said that it was Labour Party policy to keep a second referendum on the table if there is no Brexit deal and no general election.
“No, it’s not off the table,” Mr Starmer said is response to questions. “The Labour Party position was set out in our conference motion in September — it said we’d vote on the deal, if the deal doesn’t go through there ought to be a general election, if there’s not a general election, options, including the option of a public vote should be on the table. So that option is on the table.
“I think the options are really down to two now: first is a close economic relationship — customs union, single market alignment — the other is a public vote. So that’s where the Labour Party stands on this,” he said.
Mr Starmer said Labour’s preference was for “the combination of customs union and single market alignment because we think that’s what’s best for the economy”.
“It’s the only combination that can actually secure no hard border in Northern Ireland,” he added.