Keir Starmer discusses Brexit and a second referendum
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Brexit doubts have exploded after one leading Brexiteer warned Sir Keir Starmer could prove to be a “problem” as the European Union waits for the UK to be governed by the Labour Party. Boris Johnson secured a huge 80-seat majority for his Conservative Party in the 2019 election and just over as year later, struck the deal that saw Britain officially leave the EU on January 1, 2021. Sir Keir, who had voted Remain and campaigned for a second referendum on EU membership, remained silent on Brexit for several months, before finally admitting the process cannot be reversed.
But the Tories have now plunged in the polls which has seen Labour surge ahead, leading many to fear Sir Keir’s party is on course for a landslide victory in the next general election.
One leading Brexiteer has warned Sir Keir could take Britain back into the EU Single Market if he becomes Prime Minister.
Former MEP Ben Habib told Express.co.uk: “I think Rishi Sunak would like to cave to the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, but I don’t think he will ultimately do that because it would cause utter political havoc.
“I don’t think the EU is in any hurry to do a deal with him because he is leading a lame duck Government. They know Keir Starmer would be far more sympathetic to them than the Tories would ever be.
“The EU are kicking this can down the road until the UK is ruled by a Labour Government, which almost looks to be a complete certainty.
“Keir Starmer, given half a chance, would take us back into the EU Single Market. He campaigned against Brexit and wanted a second referendum. I think he’s a problem.”
On Sunday, Sir Keir was grilled about embracing the “take back control” slogan in his first major speech this year – despite backing Remain in 2016 before calling for a fresh vote on EU membership when his side lost.
Referring his address earlier in the week which saw him pledge Labour would “take back control” by devolving power from Westminster to local communities, Sophy Ridge asked on her Sky News show: “In your speech you appropriated the language of Brexit, you said you were the man to take back control.
“You said, ‘As I went around the country campaigning for Remain, I couldn’t disagree with the basic case so many Leave voters made to me’.
“So is that why you led the campaign for a second referendum? You said that you’d vote Remain in a second referendum and you described the Leave vote as catastrophic for the UK.”
Sir Keir replied: “What I said in my speech is something I’ve said actually many, many times. I voted for Remain and I campaigned for Remain and we lost the referendum.
“But deeper than that, beyond the technical question should we be in the EU or not, I felt that bound up in that referendum was a big question about change. People desperately wanted change.
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“That’s why I think ‘take back control’ was such a powerful slogan in a way. It was a Heineken phrase, it got inside people. If you can’t make your household budget balance, you don’t think you’ve got control.
“If you don’t think that you can send your child to a school that’s excellent in your area because there isn’t a school that’s excellent you don’t have control. If you feel that antisocial behaviour means you can’t go out in your neighbourhood after dark you don’t have control.
“That powerful case for change over and beyond the question of EU membership was always there. I’ve always actually accepted that. I think most people that voted Remain would accept that as well. We need change within the UK.”
Ms Ridge pressed: “A lot of Leave voters would say they voted Leave because they wanted to leave the EU.
“If you’re honest do you think you’re shifting message is because the electorate that mattered to you then was a pro-Remain party membership who would be voting for the next Labour leader and the electorate that matters to you now when you’re promising to take back control are those swing voters, many of them who voted for Brexit?
“Are you changing your message to suit your own purposes?”
Sir Keir replied: “No, I’ve long reflected on that 2016 referendum as I’ve reflected on the Scottish referendum in 2014 where a large number of people voted Yes. Of course, the technical question on the ballot paper was membership of the EU or independence in Scotland.
“But sitting behind that I think there was a very powerful emotional case for change which I don’t think most Remainers would argue with. I certainly didn’t. I’ve always argued the other side of Brexit is delivering the change that’s needed in this country and that’s what I was setting out in my speech earlier this week.”
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