19:05 GMT23 January 2021
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    Earlier this week, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer made it clear that his party will vote for the EU-UK trade agreement on 30 December, but added "it is not the deal that the government promised".

    The Daily Mail has cited an unnamed Labour source as defying party leader Keir Starmer's call to vote for the London-Brussels trade deal and saying that "we don't want Brexit blood on our hands".

    The remarks come as Starmer faces a rebellion from an array of Europhile Labour lawmakers, including several backbenchers, who are expected to ignore Starmer's three-line whip to support the deal.

    Another Labour source reportedly said "this is just Keir over-correcting because he got it so wrong last year". According to the insider, "it's hard to take being ordered to back a Brexit deal from a man who upset so many people by not appearing to accept the result of the 2016 referendum".

    The source was echoed by MP Neil Coyle, who publicly signaled an unwillingness to back the trade agreement, claiming Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "downgrade for the UK should not have any Labour fingerprints on it".

    © REUTERS / ©UK Parliament/JESSICA TAYLOR
    Question Period at the House of Commons in London

     

    The rebellion by Labour lawmakers was preceded by Starmer stating on Thursday that his party would support what he described as a "thin deal" between the UK and the EU.

    "At a moment of such national significance, it is just not credible for Labour to be on the sidelines", he underscored, adding, however, it is "not the deal that the government promised - far from it".

    Starmer added that even though "a better deal could have been negotiated", he accepts "that option has now gone".

    With Labour MPs currently scrutinizing the terms of the deal, they will “quickly realise that on trade it is little more than a WTO [World Trade Organisation]/ GATT [the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] referenced” agreement, says Franco Rizzuto, Professor of European Law from Edge Hill University.

    “Keir Starmer is wrong in my view to give the PM a blank cheque and should instead ask his MPs to abstain” from voting in favour of the deal”, Rizutto adds.

    He predicts that the deal “will unravel over the coming months as economically things get worse”.

    UK Fisheries Leaders Frustrated Over Brexit Trade Deal

    Starmer's remarks were partly echoed by British fishermen's leaders who expressed dissatisfaction about the EU and the UK managing to reach a last-minute deal.

    Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, claimed his industry's interests had been betrayed in order to reach a deal.

    "In the endgame, the prime minister made the call and caved in on fish, despite the rhetoric and assurances that he would not do what Ted Heath did in 1973", Deas claimed.

    He was apparently referring to then-UK Prime Minister Heath leading Britain into the European Economic Community - the precursor to the EU - in 1973.

    UK Fisheries chief executive Jane Sandell, in turn, said they are "pleased that the UK-EU deal will bring some kind of certainty to parts of our industry", even though they are "still looking for the 'prodigious amounts of fish' we were promised, and for us it changes nothing".

    The remarks followed Johnson on Friday urging House of Commons members to vote in favour of the trade deal on 30 December, a call that came as the full text of the over 1,250-page agreement was published and sent to UK and EU lawmakers to be scrutinised.

    Johnson Announces 'Biggest' UK-EU Trade Deal

    On Thursday, the UK prime minister announced that London and Brussels had completed "the biggest trade deal yet, worth £660 billion a year", an agreement that was also praised by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as "fair, balanced, and right".

    The agreement was reached following protracted talks, with the sides at odds over a spate of sensitive issues, including fisheries.

    European nations, including France and the Netherlands, demanded that EU fishermen continue to have access to British waters, while London rejected any agreement that might resemble the status quo and insisted on holding annual discussions with the EU over quotas.

    Under the new post-Brexit trade deal, the EU's quota will be reduced to 25% over the next five and a half years.

    Related:

    France Threatens to Scupper Brexit Trade Deal Over Fisheries as Germany Urges 'Compromise'
    Brexit Deal Needs to Reflect That We Regain Control of Fisheries - UK Chief Secretary to Treasury
    Brexit Trade Talks: EU Commission Says No Solution Reached With Britain on Fisheries
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    lawmakers, rebellion, Keir Starmer, trade deal, Brexit, EU, Britain
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