Brexit: Labour activists from East Anglia urge Sir Keir Starmer not to back deal

(left to right) Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, Suffolk county councillor Kathy Bole and former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin. Credit: PA/Suffolk County Council/ITV News

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is facing a backbench revolt over his decision to back Boris Johnson's EU trade deal on Wednesday.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and Suffolk county councillor Kathy Bole are among the signatories to a statement calling on opposition parties not to support the “rotten” agreement.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and ex-cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw have also backed the statement.

Sir Keir has said that he will call on Labour MPs to support the “thin” post-Brexit free trade agreement, despite misgivings that it would fail to protect many key economic sectors.

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a backbench revolt over his support for Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

He argued, however, that the alternative of ending the Brexit transition period on December 31 without a deal in place would be even worse for the economy.

However, his stance has upset some pro-Europeans in the party who say they should not support a flawed agreement and should abstain instead.

The statement has been organised by Another Europe is Possible and Labour for a Socialist Europe – both on the left – but has attracted support from both wings of the party, according to The Guardian.

As well as Mr Bradshaw, the paper said the signatories included ex-cabinet minister Lord Adonis from the Blairite wing of the party.

Clive Lewis MP Credit: PA Wire

From the left, Mr McDonnell is joined another former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis.

The statement warns that it is the duty of the opposition to provide proper parliamentary scrutiny and to set out an alternative.

“That task gets harder if opposition parties fall into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal,” it said.

“We are witnessing an act of vandalism against our livelihoods, our rights and our horizons.

“We call on Labour, the Labour movement and other opposition parties not to support the Tories’ Brexit deal when it is put to a vote in the House of Commons.”

Other signatories are said to include former MEPs, councillors and local activists.

John McDonnell is among the signatories to the statement. Credit: Jacob King/PA

Boris Johnson insists Brexit agreement is ‘right deal’ for UK but ‘devil is in the detail’

Labour is alone among the opposition parties in saying it will support the deal – with the SNP and the Liberal Democrats having said they will vote against it.

The DUP – which backed Brexit – has also said it will oppose the deal because the Brexit divorce settlement imposes customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, the self-styled “star chamber” of lawyers led by veteran Eurosceptic MP Sir Bill Cash and assembled by the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers is expected to deliver its verdict on the deal.

Despite some reported misgivings over elements of the package, it is thought the group will be broadly favourable – although some are unhappy at the way the agreement, which runs to more than 1,200 pages, is being rushed through Parliament in a single day.

However, with Labour backing the agreement, it is expected to be passed comfortably on Wednesday.

So what is and isn't in the deal?

Boris Johnson said the deal covers trade worth around £660 billion and that it is a "good deal for the whole of Europe", which means:

  • Goods and components can be sold without tariffs and quotas in the EU market.

  • It will allow the share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch to rise from around half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half year transition.

  • Allegations of unfair competition will be judged by an independent third-party arbitration panel with the possibility of a “proportionate” response.

  • The Erasmus student exchange programme will be replaced in the UK by a worldwide scheme named after code breaker Alan Turing.

However, on financial services, a vitally important sector to the UK, Mr Johnson conceded he had not got all he wanted.