Unite GS Len McCluskey calls for Article 50 extension to stop ‘catastrophic’ no-deal Brexit

As prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces continued opposition in Parliament ahead of an MPs’ vote scheduled for next week, Unite leader Len McCluskey today (January 9) reiterated the union’s stance against what he called a ‘catastrophic’ no-deal scenario.

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Speaking in an interview on the BBC’s HARDtalk programme this morning, McCluskey criticised the prime minister who he said “has lost all authority, credibility and her government has lost the right to govern” as he called for another general election.

With less than a week to go before a Commons vote on whether to accept May’s deal, cross-party MPs have shown little signs of softening towards the deal after the prime minister failed to secure anything new in EU talks beyond what Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today (January 9) called mere ‘window-dressing’.

As the Brexit drama in Parliament continues to unfold, speaker John Becrow unexpectedly today (January 9) allowed a debate on an amendment that would force Theresa May to present a new Brexit deal within three days of her deal being voted down, as is anticipated.

MPs voted in favour of this so-called Grieve amendment this afternoon by 308 to 297 – a majority of 11 – which will now force the government to provide an alternative deal within three days if her current deal is rejected on Tuesday, in effect preventing the government from running down the clock to a no-deal Brexit.

The decision comes only a day after the government was defeated on Tuesday (January 8) by a significant margin after a group of cross-party MPs led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper voted in favour of an amendment that would limit the government’s tax administration powers in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The amendment also helps make a no-deal Brexit much harder to push through.

Speaking on HARDtalk, McCluskey called for an urgent solution to the Brexit deadlock.

“I’m hoping that the government will accept that there needs to be an extension of Article 50 to give more time for debate and discussion,” he said.

Lambasting what he called a ‘deal that isn’t a deal’ McCluskey said that there were two things that “unites everybody at the moment” – firstly that the deal now on the table was simply “not good enough” and secondly that “there should not be a no-deal [Brexit]”.

Disputing May’s argument that she is simply carrying out the will of the British people, McCluskey pointed out that she has done nothing to reach out to the 52 per cent who voted in favour of Brexit largely because of their forgotten towns and cities that have crumbled under deindustrialisation.

“The government is saying nothing about investing in those communities,” he said.

McCluskey singled out this and previous Tory governments for creating the Brexit chaos now engulfing Parliament and sowing division across the country.

“The reality is it was a Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, who gave us the referendum in a short space of time — 12 weeks when we were telling him give us a lot longer and when in Scotland they had 18 months [to prepare for the Scottish independence referendum],” McCluskey reminded HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur who suggested Labour was in part to blame for Brexit.

“And it’s a Conservative prime minister in Theresa May who has now wasted two years with internal divisions,” he added.

Watch the full HARDtalk interview with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey here.

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