Labor leftists are planning to pressure Sir Keir Starmer to soften his stance on Brexit, The Telegraph has learned.
A coalition of the party’s hard and soft left factions is trying to pressure the party leader, who last month vowed he would not take Britain back into the Single Market.
His comments were an attempt to clarify the Labor stance on Brexit – but The Telegraph was told it galvanized the pro-EU movement on the left.
In a speech about Britain’s future outside the EU, Sir Keir vowed to “make Brexit work” and said there would be no return to a customs union or freedom of movement.
He said that under the Labor Party, Britain “will not return to the EU. We will not join the single market. We are not going to join a customs union.”
His remarks drew a backlash from leading labor figures, including Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.
Michael Chessum of the Labor Campaign for Free Movement said Sir Keir’s stance on Brexit was a “total betrayal” of those who elected him as leader.
“What the Conservatives have introduced is pretty much as difficult as it sounds – no single market, no customs union, no free movement,” he said.
“All the touchstones of any Brexit easing are out the window and you have Starmer saying we fully accept that.
“It’s very shocking how far Starmer has gone, and it’s a total betrayal of all the promises he used to get elected as a Labor leader.
“He clearly promised to maintain freedom of movement – he talked about it in the leadership campaign.”
Free movement ‘has support across the party’
The campaign, a network of activists and grassroots supporters, has drafted a motion to be presented at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool next month.
The motion, which won the support of the socialist group Momentum, calls for Britain to re-enter Europe’s area of free movement.
“It’s certainly significant that Momentum is supporting this — it’s circulating generally among the left,” Chessum said.
“Free movement has support across the party. There are people like Stella Creasy and Sadiq Khan, but also among the Corbynite base there has always been a large majority in favor of free movement and the rights of migrants.”
Mrs Creasy, the deputy who chairs the Labor Movement for Europe (LME) group, said membership is “soaring” and currently includes about 40 percent of the parliamentary Labor Party.
She said about a third of the new candidates selected to run as parliamentarians in the upcoming general elections are LME candidates, meaning they have either endorsed the group or been nominated by it.
The prospect of a rebellion by his lawmakers is likely to put further pressure on Sir Keir to soften his stance on Brexit if Labor wins the next election.
“Honesty about the problems Brexit is creating”
Preparations for an LME rally, held jointly with the Labor Irish Society and the Party of European Socialists on the first day of the labor conference, are under way. The event promises to feature a member of the party caucus as keynote speaker.
Creasy said the group was not looking to join the EU or hold a second referendum, but insisted that “no option should be off the table” when it comes to how Brexit will be implemented.
“That means, for example, that we absolutely must look at what leaving the customs union and the single market has done to our ability to trade and discuss whether we should try to rebuild some of that,” she said.
“We want to see Labor honestly leading the way in the problems that Brexit is creating and the determination to fix them as quickly as possible. We know that the labor bench wants to have the debate – we want to have it too.”
Creasy is believed to have held a meeting with a group of communications consultants on how to launch a new effort to soften the Labor Party’s position in Europe.