Keir Starmer leads the backlash against hard Brexit: Where’s the mandate?
His performance prompted Iain Duncan Smith to withdraw ‘second class lawyer’ slur.
Labour’s top Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer has set about standing up for those opposed to hard Brexit - and even forced an embarrassing climbdown by Iain Duncan Smith.
As Brexit sceptics look for a champion, Starmer suggested that he could be the man for the job with a measured performance in the Commons.
During a debate on the issue, the shadow Brexit secretary told MPs that the vote to leave the EU had to be “respected and accepted”, even though people like him were opposed to leaving. But he added:
“That is not the end of the matter. The next and increasingly pressing question is: on what terms should we leave the EU?”
Starmer said there was “great uncertainty” among businesses and individuals. He continued:
“It’s frankly astonishing then to negotiate and then to reach a deal without a vote in this House… Where's the mandate?
“The referendum is not the mandate for the terms. We’ve been round this block and everybody understands the distinction. I’ve stood here and accepted there’s a mandate for exit.
“There is no mandate for the terms. It’s never been put to the country. It’s not even been put to the secretary of state’s political party and it’s not been put to this House. Where is the mandate on the terms?”
While a number of MPs from all sides backed Starmer, others were not convinced. They included arch-Brexiteer Bill Cash who accused Remain-voting MPs of “constantly and disingenuously stating their acceptance of the result of the referendum” and then trying to "mitigate or overturn" the result.
During the Brexit debate, Starmer also insisted he was “not in the slightest bit concerned” about Duncan Smith having recently referred to him as a “second class lawyer”.
Moments earlier, the former Tory cabinet minister had made an unseemly bid to withdraw the derogatory remark.
He asked the Speaker: “Can I unreservedly withdraw the allegation I made on Monday. Only the basis that it was clumsy, it was not made about him, it was meant about advice. And I don't doubt for one moment his capabilities.”