John McDonnell slams Tory Brexit plans… but refuses to block them
Labour now stands accused of 'premature capitulation' on Brexit.
Labour is planning to use "moral pressure" as its main weapon to force the government to reveal more about its plan for Brexit, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.
In a major speech in London, McDonnell argued that Theresa May had "no coherent plan" for Brexit and that the government’s approach would result in "a Brexit that works only for bankers and the rich".
But the shadow chancellor then stressed that Labour was not prepared to block or even to hold up the triggering of Article 50.
"We must not try to re-fight the referendum or push for a second vote and if Article 50 needs to be triggered in parliament Labour will not seek to block or delay it," he said.
"To do so would put us against the majority will of the British people and on the side of certain corporate elites, who have always had the British people at the back of the queue."
When baffled journalists then sought to establish how Labour could possibly apply any pressure to the government in that case, McDonnell explained:
"I think it’s the moral pressure that we’ll be able to exert right the way across the country to get them to be open and transparent about what their vision is for the country’s relationship with Europe in the future.
"I don’t think it will come down to parliamentary divisions and just as we’re campaigning now on this particular issue, I think it will be moral pressure not just in parliament but right across the country."
The Green party’s co-leader Caroline Lucas immediately criticised McDonnell’s stance.
"Labour’s premature capitulation on article 50 leaves those of us who oppose a hard Brexit in a weaker position,” she said.
“As a result we now have less power to persuade the government to give us proper details on their plans ahead of a vote. Though we should not seek to overturn the result of the referendum it is down to us as MPs to look closely at the deal on the table before throwing our support behind the government’s plans.
Meanwhile, the Tories appeared to be taking their cue from The Sun’s Harry Cole, who had seized on the fact that the shadow chancellor’s speech did not mention immigration.
Responding to the speech an hour after Cole’s tweet, Dominic Raab said: “Labour have absolutely zero credibility when it comes to safeguarding our economy. But what is truly astonishing is that John McDonnell completely failed to mention immigration, or control of our borders, in his vision of post-Brexit Britain.”
In his speech, McDonnell spent some time slamming the government’s approach to Brexit and warning of dire consequences - before making it clearer than ever before that Labour is not prepared to block or hold up the triggering of Article 50.
He said of the government: “They can’t tell us their negotiating position for Brexit, and they’ve delayed telling us how they intend to deliver an industrial strategy. They have no coherent plan for Brexit and no coherent vision of how our country will prosper…
“The closed-minded Brexit the Tory establishment want deep down is one the British people do not. They have the wrong ambitions for our economy, and the wrong ambitions for Brexit, which means they will continue to undermine the ambitions of working people.
“It also means we will be left with a Brexit that works only for bankers and the rich, instead of one that's based on fairness and works for the rest of us.”
Picture by: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire/PA Images