Labour will work with other parties to prevent Theresa May delivering an “extreme Brexit” after last week’s general election destroyed her majority, Keir Starmer has said.
Speaking to the Guardian, shadow Brexit secretary Starmer said: “I think there’s a majority in the House of Commons for a progressive partnership with the EU, and there’s not a majority for extreme Brexit.”
May is currently negotiating a deal with the hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a minority government, however Starmer said her “version of extreme Brexit has been rejected” after the Tories lost 13 seats and their House of Commons majority at the polls.
The Prime Minister has taken an aggressive and alienating stance towards the EU prior to the Brexit negotiations. Describing herself as a “bloody difficult woman”, May has repeatedly claimed that “no deal would be better than a bad deal” and has threatened to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven on the shores of Europe if the talks fail.
A white paper published in February laid out May’s Brexit vision, which includes leaving the single market and most of the customs unions in order to end the free movement of people and leave the European Court of Justice.
Starmer said May should tear the white paper up and involve MPs from across the political spectrum.
He explained: “She’s got to take a different tone and approach; be much clearer about the single market and the customs union.
“She’s got to be clear that no deal is not viable; and she’s got to be clear about how she’s going to allow parliament to have a much greater role in scrutiny of that as you go through the process.”
Starmer reiterated that the PM must “drop the idea that no deal is a viable option”.
“No deal means not just no deal on trade, but it means you have not reached an agreement about anything,” he said, emphasising that this included the issue of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Starmer has sent a letter to the Brexit secretary David Davis laying out Labour’s demands if the party is to support the government’s Brexit legislation.
The Financial Times obtained a copy of the letter, in which Starmer wrote “to threaten to jump off a cliff rather than to be pushed is not a viable negotiating strategy”. He described May’s approach as “belligerent and reckless”.
If Tories ignore his demands, Starmer said Labour would join forces with backbenchers from across the Commons to defeat a hard Brexit “through the scrutiny, through the voting procedures.”
As well as working with the SNP, Greens and Liberal Democrats, Labour would also work with Europhile Tory MPs.
He told the Guardian: “I think there are a number of Conservatives who clearly share the view that extreme Brexit was the wrong approach. Before the election, they held those views but didn’t necessarily vote according to them, but now I think they’ll feel emboldened to do so.
“I know from my discussions with very many Tory MPs that they did not think that extreme Brexit was the right way forward.”