Opinion: Only Labour willing to give Brexit choice

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer claims Labour will give people a final say on Brexit.

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer claims Labour will give people a final say on Brexit. - Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament (

If you listened to Conservative ministers speaking at their party conference in Manchester this week, you could be forgiven for thinking that the government was on the brink of securing a breakthrough on Brexit. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite all of the warm words, the negotiations are in deadlock. The government has completely failed to bring forward any serious or credible alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop.

And rather than trying to unite parliament behind a deal, Boris Johnson tried to it shut it down and then used reckless and irresponsible language towards MPs to distract from his own irresponsible - and as we no know unlawful - behaviour.

The reality is that the government has shown no willingness to negotiate a new Brexit deal.

Boris Johnson would rather crash the economy, put jobs at risk and damage communities across the United Kingdom by taking us out of the EU without a deal than go back on his reckless "do or die" pledge.

In the absence of responsible leadership from the government, Labour has had to step-up again to act in the national interest. That's why over the summer, Jeremy Corbyn and I worked cross-party to build the coalition that passed a law to stop a no deal Brexit at the end of this month.

However, stopping a no deal Brexit is not an end in itself. We have to break the impasse and I am now convinced that the only way to do so is to go back to the British people in a further referendum.

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Too much has happened in the past three years for this issue to be decided without the consent of the public. That is a view I know many people in Camden share.

We need to ask the people a straightforward question: are you prepared to leave with the best deal that can be negotiated or would you rather stay in the EU? I have said many times that I would campaign and vote for Remain in any future referendum; and it is right that we now give the British people that choice.

Speaking at our own party conference in Brighton, I pledged that a future Labour government would hold a referendum no later than six months from taking office. This will draw a line under Brexit and help the country to move on. I know how frustrated Ham&High readers are with the arguments over Brexit.

People are sick and tired of a government that is in paralysis over Brexit and failing to deliver on the other issues that matter, such as improving our public services, tackling the climate emergency and ending rough sleeping.

If we fail to secure that referendum, I fear we risk losing another five years to Tory infighting over Europe.

So, I have a very simple message: if you want a referendum; if you want to give the British people a final say on Brexit and if you want to fight for remain: now is the time to get behind what we are trying to achieve.

Only Labour will let the people decide on this vital issue.