The Daily Telegraph

Labour clears the way for deal to sail through Commons


LABOUR has said that Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal is not “perfect”, but promised to vote for it, meaning it is set to pass through the Commons regardless of any Conservati­ve rebellion.

Sir Keir Starmer pledged not to “snipe” nor “play political games” that might risk derailing the new “Windsor Framework” as he insisted the UK has an “obligation” to make it work.

The Labour leader also criticised Boris Johnson, urging the Prime Minister to be “utterly unlike” the former leader as he seeks to push ahead with the fresh arrangemen­ts finally agreed with the EU after two years of tense negotiatio­ns.

Responding to Mr Sunak’s presentati­on of his deal to the Commons yesterday, Sir Keir said Labour would “stick to our word” and back the new framework. Mr Sunak has secured new terms over post-brexit trade in Northern Ireland, which is set by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Sir Keir said: “It is in that spirit that I have been clear for some time that if the Prime Minister were to get an agreement with the EU, and if their agreement is in the interest of this country and Northern Ireland, then Labour would support it.”

He added: “The protocol will never be perfect – it’s a compromise. But I’ve always been clear that if implemente­d correctly it is an agreement that can work in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. And now that it has been agreed we all have an obligation to make it work.” It means it would have more than enough support to win a vote in the House, as any rebel Tories would be far outnumbere­d by Labour MPS siding with the Government. While this means Mr Sunak can be reassured of a win for his deal, it is one safety net he would rather avoid. Labour coming to the Tories’ rescue because of a rebellion within their own ranks would be terrible optics for the party that campaigned to Get Brexit Done.

Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group are to meet today and will convene a “star chamber” of lawyers to scrutinise the deal before deciding whether to back it.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir rounded on Mr Johnson – the prime minister who delivered Brexit but did not attend Mr Sunak’s address. Sir Keir claimed the former prime minister’s insistence that there would be “no

‘Do not pretend the deal is something it is not. Treat Unionists with the respect of frank honesty’

forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind” on goods crossing from Northern Ireland to Great Britain after Brexit was “absolute nonsense”.

“I have to say, as the Prime Minister listed all the problems with the protocol, I did rather wonder whether he had forgotten who negotiated it,” he said.

“So when presenting what this agreement means in practice... I urge the Prime Minister to be utterly unlike his predecesso­r. Do not pretend the deal is something it is not. Treat Unionists with the respect of frank honesty, not the contempt of bluster.”

Sir Keir said the proposal to introduce red and green lanes to smooth the flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was a “good one”.

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