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The party jumped between several positions on Brexit in the weeks and months leading up to last December’s general election, leaving many voters questioning the direction they would lead should they have come into power. Sir Keir was instrumental in directing Labour’s policy on Brexit, which saw the party eventually head into the general election promising to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with the EU and put it to another public vote. But this widened huge cracks in the party, putting it at odds with some of its previously loyal voters in Leave-supporting areas.
Since taking over as Labour leader in April, Sir Keir has largely remained silent on the issue and has often distanced himself from criticising the Prime Minister on the UK’s departure from the EU.
But in a rare attack earlier this week against Mr Johnson and Brexit, the Labour leader warned he would be “failing Britain” and would have “nobody to blame but himself” if the UK fails to secure a trade deal with the EU.
Sir Keir also attempted to draw a line under the Leave and Remain debates, claiming the battle between the two is “over”.
But Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, warned the Labour leader now has a major issue with Labour’s position on Brexit that is continuing to drive a wedge between the party’s MPs and potential voters throughout the UK.
When asked what mistakes the Labour leader has made so far, the political expert told Express.co.uk: “It’s certainly true that Starmer has a big problem on Brexit.
“The majority of his MPs are hardcore Remainers but the majority of his voters are Brexiteers.
“He can waffle on all he wants but in the end he will have to address the issue that his and his MPs views don’t match his voters or the voters he needs to attract to win.”
“Labour are still the Party of the many Brexit positions not the few.
“Keir Starmer was a big part of the campaign to reverse the Brexit vote, now he seems to have switched tack to campaigning against a no deal and for as softer Brexit as possible.
“Labour have finally accepted Brexit and will focus on criticising what they perceive as issues with Boris’ handling of it.
Alistair Jones, Associate Professor in Politics and University Teacher Fellow at De Montfort University in Leicester, explained why Labour’s Brexit plan led by Mr Corbyn has been “abandoned” and how it has dramatically changed.
He told this website: “Labour’s Brexit policy is – we have left the EU. Let us now get the best possible deal with the EU in relation to trade.
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“Corbyn’s plan has been abandoned because the legislation has passed through Parliament.
“The UK has left. We could re-apply to join but this is NOT current Labour policy.”
Wyn Grant, Professor of Politics at the University of Warwick, who was also previously chair and president of the Political Studies Association, said Labour now “accepts” Brexit is going to happen, “but would prefer to avoid a no deal Brexit”.
He also backed the Labour’s leader’s decision not to place the spotlight on the UK’s departure from the EU, adding: “He is probably wise not to focus on it too much until it is clear what is going to happen.”
But earlier this week, Sir Keir used a speech in Doncaster at the annual Labour Party conference, delivered without an audience due to coronavirus, to launch a scathing attack against Mr Johnson, and issue a huge warning over Brexit.
The Labour leader said: “British business needs a deal. Working people need a deal. Our country needs a deal.
“If that happens, he’ll have nobody to blame but himself.
“And he will have to own that failure. It will be on him.
“We want to get this deal done, and like everybody else, we’re growing tired of the Prime Minister’s bluster.”
He added: “The debate between Leave and Remain is over.
“We’re not going to be a party that keeps banging on about Europe.”
Sir Keir also appealed to voters who had turned their back on Labour to return to the party with a message he offers a “new leadership” and shares their patriotic values.
He told Labour members: “To those people in Doncaster and Deeside, in Glasgow and Grimsby, in Stoke and in Stevenage to those who have turned away from Labour, I say this: we hear you.”
“I ask you: take another look at Labour. We’re under new leadership. We love this country as you do.”
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