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Labour hasn’t given up hope of forming own government and proposing alternative Brexit deal

Ben Gartside
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to congratulate new MP Lisa Forbes after her victory in the Peterborough By-election on June 07, 2019. Photo: Darren Staples/Getty Images

Given the recent failures of the UK government to pass Brexit legislation, it came as a surprise to some when Labour’s bill to block prorogation failed.

Prorogation is the time period between the end of a session of parliament and the state of the next. The reason why Labour would seek to block it is because the prime minister that will take over from Theresa May, who resigned earlier this month, could technically prorogue parliament and force through a no-deal Brexit.

Conservative MPs entering Sajid Javid’s leadership launch were even heard talking of their surprise at the bill failing, which was anticipated to be another nail in the coffin of those hoping to see a hard Brexit anytime soon.

Despite their relative success at undermining Tories of all persuasions, it is no clearer as to what Labour would seek to propose as an alternate plan that would be able to command a majority in this, or any parliament.

Figures close to Labour’s Brexit policy told Yahoo Finance UK they believe that another extension is likely, and believe that talk of the European Union’s willingness to push the UK out via a “no-deal” being overstated.

Labour is looking in coming months to emphasise how no-deal is not a realistic outcome for Brexit, and would not lead to a free trade agreement or similar arrangement, as the EU would still insist on the settling of the £39bn ($49.4bn) divorce bill, protection of EU citizens’ rights, and protection of the Good Friday Agreement.

Labour backbencher Jack Dromey has been running sessions alongside Conservative MP Caroline Spelman highlighting the issues with no-deal, which have been highlighted by those close to Labour’s Brexit team as an approach which is looking to be mirrored. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is set to adopt a similar approach, discussing with businesses the impracticality of no-deal and outlining what Labour is doing to prevent it when touring the country.

Those involved in Labour’s strategy believe that the party is moving, albeit slowly, towards a second referendum with Labour backing a ‘Remain’ option. While there is still significant scepticism within the Shadow Frontbench towards adopting the position, there is a growing mood among shadow ministers that an unequivocal position is needed and supported wholeheartedly, with a second referendum being the most likely outcome.

While Labour is moving to a position of a public vote with an accompanying endorsement of Remain, Labour hasn’t given up hope of forming their own government and proposing their own, alternative Brexit deal.

Figures around the Shadow Brexit team saw the vote to block proroguing of Parliament not only as a way to prevent a possible route to no-deal, but also a way of forcing a potential hard Brexit supporting Tory PM into calling a general election, by removing all routes other than an explicit manifesto commitment.

With time running out before the new deadline of 31 October, many Labour MPs hope for a decisive decision to be taken soon.

The ‘Love Socialism Hate Brexit’ Group, which compromises 20 newer, more pro-Corbyn MPs including former Shadow Cabinet member Kate Osamor and more than a dozen junior shadow ministers have highlighted July’s meeting of the ruling National Executive Committee as a critical juncture to push for a ballot of party members on Labour’s Brexit position. If not achieved then, the group see party conference as a final showdown, albeit with a potential further extension necessary in order to account for a referendum’s timetable.