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Labour conference descends into chaos as delegates reject demands for party to back Remain

1 hour 8 minutes ago
Brexit Labour protest
Labour's conference has been dominated by Brexit.

Labour's conference descended into chaos after delegates narrowly rejected calls for the party to back Remain.

Amid farcical scenes, a motion calling for Labour to campaign to stay in the EU in a second referendum was defeated by a show of hands.

Instead, party members overwhelmingly approved a compromise position backed by Jeremy Corbyn which commits the party to revisiting the issue if it wins the next election.

Wendy Nichols, chair of the party's national executive committee and the official overseeing the votes, said she initially believed the pro-Remain motion had been passed.

But she then appeared to be over-ruled by Jennie Formby, Labour's general secretary and a close ally of Mr Corbyn.

Ms Nichols said: "Sorry I thought it was one way and Jennie said something else."

Furious pro-Remain delegates then demanded that the motion be put to a "card vote", which would accurately show if it had won or lost.

But Nichols told them: "If it was carried I would have said that, it was lost."

The two-and-a-half hour conference debate which preceded the votes had highlighted the deep splits within the party over Brexit.

Numerous delegates called for the pro-Remain motion to be backed, but they were challenged by opponents who said the party must support Mr Corbyn's compromise position.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: "With your endorsement today, conference, with the instructions that I hope you give us today, I believe we must strive day and night, whatever it takes, to keep Britain in the European Union."

But Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of Unite, said it was be a "car crash" to send Mr Corbyn to Brussels to negotiate a new Brexit deal with Labour committed to backing Remain.

He said: "It is a guarantee that the next election is about Brexit and Brexit only. All our transformative agenda drowned out by Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is saying to us: do not tie my hands. Allow me to talk of unity because I am a man of unity."

The row also exposed deep splits with the trade union movement, with Unite, the CWU and GMB backing Mr Corbyn, with Unison and the TSSA opposing him.

Labour MP Ian Murray, who backs Remain, said: "It is of course deeply disappointing that we have not chosen to campaign for remain at this stage, as that certainly does not reflect the strong views of the overwhelming majority of our members and supporters.

"It is simply not tenable for our leadership to be neutral when we face the biggest crisis our country has witnessed in modern times."

Stephen Gethins, the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Jeremy Corbyn is stuck firmly on the fence, refusing to come down - and today’s votes show the rest of the Labour party is happy to stay there. This is a real abdication of leadership."

Kevin Schofield

EU's Michel Barnier dismisses Boris Johnson's Irish backstop plan as 'unacceptable'

2 hours ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier said it was "unacceptable" after meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas

The EU’s chief negotiator has called Boris Johnson’s proposals to replace the Irish backstop “unacceptable”, as the Brexit deadlock continues.

Michel Barnier admitted it was “difficult” to see how a legally viable solution could be found over the controversial border arrangement.

The comments come after the UK Government shared a series of technical ‘non-papers’ with Brussels setting out ideas for an alternative to the backstop last week.

Speaking after a meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Mr Barnier said: "The new government of the UK wants us to get rid of this solution, the so-called backstop and wants…a regulatory and customs land border on the island of Ireland.

“The UK government also wants the EU to change the way the internal market and border control operates after Brexit.

“As I am sure you will understand, this is unacceptable. My mandate is clear from the 27 leaders, the EU and the European parliament: safeguarding peace and stability in Ireland and protecting the integrity of the single market."

He went on: "Let me therefore put it clearly that based on current UK thinking, it is difficult to see how we arrive at a legally operable solution that fulfils all the objectives of the backstop."

Mr Maas also cast doubt over the UK’s proposals being “legal or viable” solutions.

But speaking en route to New York on Monday, the Prime Minister said he was "cautiously optimistic" he could persuade EU leaders to accept his Irish border plans. 

He is expected to meet EU Council President Donald Tusk, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar while visiting the US for the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Johnson hopes to strike a deal with the bloc ahead of the EU Council meeting on 17 October, when a law passed by MPs could force him to request an extension to the Hallowe'en Brexit deadline if an agreement has not been reached. 

 

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Blow for Jeremy Corbyn as Unison breaks ranks to back calls for Labour to be pro-Remain

7 hours 56 minutes ago
Dave Prentis and Jeremy Corbyn
Unison boss Dave Prentis has broken ranks with Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit.

A major trade union has broken ranks with Jeremy Corbyn to back moves to force Labour to support staying in the European Union in all circumstances.

In a blow for the Labour leader, Unison has decided to support a motion calling on the party to back Remain in any second EU referendum.

A rival motion, backed by Mr Corbyn, says Labour should take a neutral position on Brexit until a separate party conference takes place.

Both positions will be debated and voted on at Labour's annual conference in Brighton on Monday. 

A Unison source said: "This is about the national interest - it's far bigger than what is best for the Labour party."

Their decision puts them at odds with other unions, including Unite, the GMB and TSSA, but increases the chances of the pro-Remain motion being passed and therefore becoming official Labour policy.

Labour insiders say the votes of Momentum members will be crucial in the knife-edge vote. It is understood that if three-quarters of them defy Mr Corbyn, the leadership will be defeated.

However, The Guardian reported that Momentum has decided to back Mr Corbyn's decision - in defiance of the organisation's director, Jon Lansman.

Mr Lansman made clear his anger with the way Labour's ruling national executive came up with its compromise position on Brexit.

He tweeted: "I'm completely supportive of Jeremy's leadership but I’m incredibly disappointed with the process by which today’s NEC statement on Brexit was produced. There was no meeting, no discussion, no consultation with the membership.

"On one of the biggest issues of the day, this is a travesty. Across the membership there are many different views on Brexit, and on conference floor members should feel free to vote with their conscience."

Kevin Schofield

Barry Gardiner MP: Labour will not allow this government to sell the UK short

8 hours 18 minutes ago
June 4, 2019 - Donald Trump protestors with a Dump Trump's Trade Deal banner at Trafalgar Square
June 2019 - Donald Trump protestors with a Dump Trump's Trade Deal banner at Trafalgar Square

Labour wants a general election but we will not risk a no deal Brexit to get there, writes Barry Gardiner MP

As we enter conference season with Parliament prorogued, the new prime minister – installed on promises made to the select few Tory party members who had the power to vote for him – is dead set on getting Brexit done by 31 October. To hell with all and any who get in his way, whether that be his own backbenchers, frontbenchers, Parliament and even his own flesh and blood.

Proroguing Parliament is a cynical ploy and part of Boris Johnson’s attempts to evade public scrutiny and silence the sovereign body of elected representatives of the British people. He is stymying any opportunity for Parliament to attempt to bring forward coherent solutions to the current impasse and, simultaneously, killing off essential Brexit bills including the Agriculture Bill and the Trade Bill, ostensibly establishing the architecture for our post-Brexit future.

These bills contained a number of measures, brought forward with cross-party support, which would ensure protections for our domestic farmers, protect against import surges of goods from overseas produced to lower standards, and that would ensure scrutiny of future trade agreements.

The Labour party has worked closely with the leaders of other opposition parties to put aside party differences and to work collectively at a time of national crisis. We are clear that a no deal Brexit poses a very serious threat to our economy, to jobs and to our global standing. We will not support such an outcome and we will continue to use every possible lever to ensure that the interests of the country are put ahead of the ideological demands of Tory party members competing with Nigel Farage. We want a general election but we will not risk a no deal Brexit to get there.

Indeed, it is extremely troubling to hear rumours that government resources are being allocated to ramp up efforts to secure trade agreements with non-EU partners at a time our EU partners are suggesting talks have come to a standstill.

Such a Trump Brexit deal would likely result in increased competition within our public services, including our NHS. It would mean changes to pharmaceutical pricing and availability. It would mean restrictions on government data regulations, allowing greater access to patient medical records for American tech and healthcare companies. It would mean lowering food safety and animal welfare standards to allow imported foodstuffs such as chlorine-washed chicken.

Moreover, it could see us on the wrong side of history by undermining our efforts to tackle global climate change. The current White House administration is proud to deny manmade climate change and is keen to rip up international treaties, including the Paris Climate Accord, in order to ensure advantages for US businesses and to appease their backers in the oil and gas industries.

Similarly, our prime minister’s appetite to lock in deregulatory trade agreements with his right wing counterparts has seen him dispatch the new trade minister to Brazil to quaff champagne with their climate-sceptic environment minister while the Amazon burns due to widespread deforestation; deforestation that can be directly attributed to land-clearing for soybean and cattle farming in order to service new trade markets.

This is a critical juncture in global history as well as our own. The actions taken by our government now have profound consequences for all of us, and this is why it is absolutely critical that they be held to account, that decisions be scrutinised and that all the information is made available.

Mistakes made now may be irreversible, so we need a Labour government that is capable of putting the interests of the country, and the many, first.

Barry Gardiner is Labour MP for Brent North and shadow international trade secretary

Barry Gardiner MP
Member of Parliament

Sadiq Khan warns Jeremy Corbyn that Labour cannot be ‘neutral’ over Brexit

1 day 4 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan
The London mayor launched the fres intervention as Labour's annual conference continued in Brighton.

Sadiq Khan has warned Jeremy Corbyn that Labour must not be “neutral” and instead back Remain in a second EU referendum.

In a direct challenge to the Labour leader, the London mayor called on party members not to support any "fudge" Brexit position thrashed out by party bosses ahead at its annual conference in Brighton.

Labour has pledged to hold a fresh referendum on Brexit if it wins the next general election, but Mr Corbyn has refused to say how he would campaign in it.

The Labour leader on Sunday confirmed that he favours plans for the party to hold a special conference to decide its position and said he would "go along with whatever decision the party comes to".

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "Please remember why people voted Leave, why people voted Remain, but also remember there is more that unites all of those people - over austerity, over investment, over education, over housing, over health, over a green industrial revolution - than there is that divides them."

The issue will be voted on in a conference showdown later this week.

But Mr Khan said Labour had arrived at a "vital crossroads" and cannot sit on the fence.

"At conference this week, we have the opportunity to come together to define how we seek to deal with the biggest challenge facing our country – Brexit," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"Labour's values of solidarity, social justice and internationalism are clearly best served by remaining in the European Union.

"So I'm making a direct appeal to delegates at Labour conference: do not accept any 'compromise' on Brexit, do not accept a fudge, do not delay us setting out what our stance would be in any future referendum."

Mr Khan added: “Labour is a Remain party and we need to make this official by making it our policy to campaign to stay in the European Union under all circumstances - and to whip all our MPs to back that position.

"Staying neutral in the face of the biggest economic and social threat to our country for decades is simply not an option.

"It’s time for Labour to commit to stopping Brexit - not only by promising to give the British public the final say, but by pledging to throw all our energy behind the campaign to stay in the European Union."

Meanwhile, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also said the party must be unequivocally pro-Remain.

In his first intervention since a botched attempt by Jeremy Corbyn supporters to axe his post, he told a fringe event: “We are a Remain party. We are a European party. We are an internationalist party. That is who we are.

“Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe and reforming Europe.

“By backing a people’s vote, by backing Remain, I am sure we can deliver the Labour government the people of this country so badly need.”

‘LEAD THE CAMPAIGN'

The interventions came just hours after Shadow Cabinet members Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer piled the pressure on party bosses to back Remain in a second referendum.

Wearing an outfit emblazoned with the EU flag, Ms Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, told a rally organised by the People's Vote campaign: "Whatever terms are agreed by which we leave the European Union, by whatever government, no matter what it says, we must make sure that there's a second referendum, we must make sure that Remain is on the ballot paper, we must make sure that Labour campaigns for Remain - and not just that, but that we lead the campaign to Remain."

She added: "We believe in internationalism. We believe in socialism. And if we believe in internationalism and socialism - why on earth would we back Brexit?"

Speaking at the same rally - his first appearance under the banner of the group calling for a second vote on EU membership - Sir Keir Starmer meanwhile said Labour had "got to listen" to pro-EU party members.

And the Shadow Brexit Secretary confirmed that he would personally push for a Remain outcome in a fresh referendum.

"When that time comes I will campaign for Remain alongside millions of other people in this country, because it's not just a technical question of whether you want to be in or out of the EU, it's about what sort of country we want to be."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Michael Gove warns the Conservatives will 'collapse' if Brexit is not delivered by October deadline

1 day 11 hours ago
Michael Gove
Michael Gove is calling for Tory MPs to do "everything we can" to support PM

Michael Gove has warned that the Conservative Party will “collapse” if the UK does not leave the European Union by the 31 October deadline.

The Cabinet Office minister said the party was on the “razor’s edge of peril” as he pushed the case for MPs to back Boris Johnson in striking a Brexit deal with Brussels.

In an article for the Sunday Times, Mr Gove also warned colleagues: “The behaviour of the anti-Brexit campaigners is doing real damage to our country. 

“A relatively small, rich and powerful set of people in London are prepared to do almost anything they can to undermine the validity of a democratic vote — heedless of the damage this will do to confidence in our political system.”

MPs passed a law to force Mr Johnson to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if a deal is not reached by 19 October, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

He also took aim at the Liberal Democrats new policy to revoke Article 50 if they win a general election, adding: “No wonder the country thinks SW1 has lost the plot.”

Mr Gove said Tory MPs must do “everything we can” to support the Prime Minister in taking Britain out of the bloc.

“If we make the wrong decisions, we will see faith in our democracy damaged and confidence in the Conservative Party drain away. We are on the razor’s edge of peril,” he added.

“If we still find ourselves in the European Union after October 31, having accepted that we can only ever leave when the EU decides, and on terms it dictates, then we will see support for the Conservative Party collapse.

“When we failed to leave, as we had promised, on March 29, faith in our party, and our promises, evaporated…We cannot disappoint the country again. We have seen this movie before. We know how it ends."

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s comments come ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling on whether the Prime Minister broke the law by suspending Parliament for five weeks ahead of the deadline.

Anahita Hossein-Pour

European Commission believes Boris Johnson's Brexit backstop plans 'fall short'

2 days 10 hours ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator

A leaked European Commission memo has said the latest draft proposals from the UK for a new Brexit deal “fall short of satisfying all the objectives of the Irish backstop”.

The document - seen by BuzzFeed News - says that the draft proposals put forward by the UK still do not provide any “legally operational solutions” to the backstop and warns any deal would need to include this before 31 October. 

The memo also says the UK has not offered credible proposal to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, has not protected Ireland’s place in the single market and has failed to preserve north-south co-operation on the island in the plans it has put forward so far.

But a UK government source defended Britain's “serious and workable” plans to avoid a hard border.

The source told BuzzFeed: "As for the Commission, two months ago they said we couldn't reopen the withdrawal agreement and there was absolutely no alternative to the backstop. Now we are having detailed discussions.

"Leaks from Brussels on Twitter are par for the course. You can set your watch by them. What we're focused on is actually getting a deal in the room. We trust they'll do the same."

The leaked memo comes as Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, continues his talks in Brussels. 

The Brexit Secretary said after his meeting with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator: “We both recognise that a deal is in the interests of both sides”. Adding that “no-one wants to see no-deal” but there was “still a lot of work to do” to avoid the legal default.

And Mr Barclay suggested that final details of alternative arrangements to the backstop would not need to be finalised until December 2020 if a deal was reached. 

But a European Commission spokesperson said any solution to the Irish border problem must be "included in the Withdrawal Agreement".

They said: "We remain willing and open to examine any such proposals that meet all the objectives of the backstop."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Labour MPs vow to revive Commons push for a second referendum in bid to end Brexit 'crisis'

2 days 11 hours ago
People's Vote
Push for a People's Vote

Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson will today promise to bring back a Commons plan to amend any future Brexit deal with a second referendum.

As Labour Party conference gets underway in Brighton, the MPs for Hove and Sedgefield will tell a People's Vote rally that they have decided to bring back their amendment after a version of the plan failed to pass the first time around. 

If MPs supported the proposal it would place the Prime Minister’s deal as the "credible" Leave option versus Remain on the ballot in a referendum.

The amendment had the most support of any in a round of indicative votes carried out in April, gaining 280 votes with the backing of all opposition parties and a number of Conservative backbenchers, but was ultimately defeated by 12 votes.

With Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn now committing the party to a second referendum on any Brexit outcome, supporters of the Kyle-Wilson amendment hope their bid will break the deadlock in Parliament. 

Mr Kyle said: “Brexit has paralysed our politics for far too long. The best way to solve this crisis is to give the public the final say.”

““No one can trust Boris Johnson to solve this Brexit crisis either with No Deal or a Deal. If he tries to force his vision for a destructive Brexit through Parliament, we will make seek to amend it so that it can only proceed if the people get the chance to have the final say”, he added.

And Mr Wilson added: “If Boris Johnson is so confident that his version of Brexit is what the people want, he should have the confidence of his convictions and let the people be the ones to decide.”

"Holding a confirmatory referendum will answer the question once and for all – where do the public want the country to go on Brexit? 

"Once that question is decisively answered, our country can finally move on from Brexit and start to deal with the many other pressing issues we face, like climate change, industrial strategy, education, crime and healthcare. A confirmatory referendum on Brexit is the only way to deliver a lasting and stable conclusion to this crisis, once and for all.”

The move comes amid a major Brexit row for the party, with Momentum founder Jon Lansman launching a surprise eve-of-conference move to oust Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson.

Mr Watson has urged Jeremy Corbyn to hold a second referendum before any general election and argued that the party should adopt an unequivocally pro-Remain position. 

 

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Stephen Kinnock MP: Labour’s route to power lies in reflecting the communitarian values of its neglected heartlands

2 days 11 hours ago
Pro-Brexit protesters in Westminster, London.
Pro-Brexit protesters in Westminster, London.

Brexit was a backlash against a Cosmopolitan ruling class that refused to listen for 40 years. Labour must now become a whole nation party, writes Stephen Kinnock MP

Labour’s next manifesto needs to be an offer to the whole nation. Britain is deeply divided, but our divisions have been a cause, rather than a symptom, of the EU referendum. Over the past 40 years, the policies of consecutive governments have allowed our economy to be heavily skewed in favour of graduates and those living in big cities. The lack of any industrial strategy has seen globalisation destroy meaningful manufacturing jobs in Britain’s industrial heartlands, while new high-end service jobs have been concentrated in the richer cities. The next Labour government must boost opportunities for non-graduates and those living outside our metropolitan centres.

Labour must be a party of investment-driven, Keynesian economics. Our 2017 offer was strong in this respect and many policies should be taken forward. We were right to commit £30bn to the NHS and to meet growing demand for adult social care. Our £250bn infrastructure fund and our £250bn National Investment Bank would boost business and should be repeated. Our recent promise of 40,000 new green jobs, plus our support for traditional industry like UK steel, must also be upheld.

But if the question was purely ‘which party has the strongest anti-austerity agenda?’ then Labour would never have lost seats such as Mansfield, Stoke South and North East Derbyshire in 2017. Labour’s biggest challenge now is therefore to show that our number one priority is to bridge the values gap between the Cosmopolitans and the Communitarians.

Cosmopolitans tend to be younger, graduates and living in the major cities. They are transient, socially liberal and feel that the last 40 years of globalisation have been positive for themselves and for the country, bringing us enriching multi-culturalism, more personal freedom, and more opportunity. Communitarians are often older, non-graduates, living in smaller towns, who have experienced fast-paced change with a sense of loss, and have in some cases seen their industries and communities ripped apart by globalisation. They tend to feel that individual rights and responsibilities bear equal weight and that people have a duty to fit in and play by the rules, which in turn gives rise to concerns about the social and cultural impact that poorly managed immigration policies and systems can have.

Brexit was a Communitarian backlash against a Cosmopolitan ruling class that had been refusing to listen for 40 years.

While Cosmopolitan and Communitarian priorities often align, for instance on funding for the NHS, good education and affordable housing, on some issues Labour need to be willing to swing the political and values pendulum back towards the Communitarians. Not just for electoral reasons, but also because our party is in danger of becoming ‘The London Labour Party’ in the eyes of millions.

Labour’s historic mission is to be a whole nation party. How can we possibly claim to be fulfilling that mission if we are only listening to one half of the country?

On education, in 2017 Labour was obsessed with cutting tuition fees to the tune of £8bn. That money could be spent on helping the poorest children in their early years of life, or cutting classroom sizes, or perhaps most critically, funding technical training and alternative education for the forgotten 50% who don’t go to university.

On models of ownership, many Communitarians fear the centralised, powerful, controlling state just as much as they mistrust remote, faceless unaccountable corporates. Britain in the 21st century would be far better served by the parts of Labour’s 2017 manifesto that promised meaningful support for social enterprises, workers on company boards, and co-operative ownership models, rather than 1970s style nationalisation.

On multiculturalism, like the Communitarians, Labour must recognise that the route to a successful, diverse, inclusive society is to build bridges between different groups; to recognise that we must bond over what we have in common before we can learn about each other and celebrate our differences. In policy terms, Labour should restore Gordon Brown’s £50m integration fund, reverse cuts to youth centres and expand the National Citizens Service.

Finally, Communitarians are typically prudent, so we’ll need to again fully cost our manifesto. Swinging the political, economic and values pendulum back in favour of the Communitarians so that Labour becomes a whole nation party once more: that is the only route to a Labour majority that can reunite and rebuild our deeply divided country.

Stephen Kinnock is Labour MP for Aberavon 

Stephen Kinnock MP
Member of Parliament

Vets join calls for no-deal Brexit to be taken off the table

3 days 4 hours ago

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling for no-deal Brexit to be taken off the negotiating table following detailed analysis of the potential impact on animal health and welfare.

The new position, agreed at BVA Council on Thursday 19 September, builds on BVA’s ongoing role in informing members and stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit. BVA has not taken a position on leave or remain.

Commenting, BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“Our analysis of a no-deal Brexit found that there could be very serious consequences for animal health and welfare, trade, and our veterinary workforce. Although a lot of work has been done by Defra and a range of regulatory bodies to prepare, we are not convinced that enough has been done to mitigate the potential negative impacts.

“We remain deeply concerned that we won’t have the necessary workforce for veterinary export certification, that the loss of markets for trade could lead to overstocking and significant welfare problems or a cull of healthy animals, that border problems may hold up the supply of veterinary medicines, and that millions of pet owners still don’t know if they will be able to travel with their animals.

“We have also raised concerns that new trade deals could compromise the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards, and that the government has still not enshrined animal sentience into UK law.

“A no-deal Brexit would leave the UK with no time to transition and adjust with worrying outcomes for our colleagues, our clients, and the animals under our care.

“This is not a political position on leave or remain, but a pragmatic approach based on the available evidence. We urge the government to take the prospect of no-deal off the table.” 

Anonymous

Chuka Umunna blasts Emily Thornberry after 'grossly insulting' claim Lib Dems are like the Taliban on Brexit

3 days 6 hours ago
Chuka Umunna
The former Labour MP hit out at the Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Chuka Umunna has urged Labour's Emily Thornberry to withdraw a "grossly insulting" comparison between the Liberal Democrats and the Taliban.

He blasted the Shadow Foreign Secretary for likening his new party to the "murderous" Afghan faction.

Ms Thornberry made the controversial comparison in an interview with The House magazine after the Lib Dems vowed to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit if they form a majority government at the next election.

She said: "The Lib Dems have gotten kind of Taliban, haven’t they? They’ve said they’re just going to revoke, there’s not going to be another referendum.

"I don’t think it’s very democratic to seek to overturn a referendum without asking the people first. I really think the only democratic way to get through this and to break the logjam is to go back to the people and trust their good sense."

But the comments - made on the eve of the Labour's annual conference in Brighton - prompted an angry response from Mr Umunna, who quit the party earlier this year.

The Streatham MP tweeted: "Emily Thornberry should withdraw her inappropriate remarks. Language counts - comparing the @LibDems to a murderous organision is no laughing matter.

"It is also grossly insulting to over 23,000 of her constituents who signed the parliamentary petition for Article 50 to be revoked."

The row comes after a poll showed that the Lib Dems had pushed Labour into third place after vowing to scrap Brexit.

The latest YouGov survey for The Times put Jo Swinson's party on 23%, up four points on last week.

At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn's official opposition has dropped back two points to 21%.

Labour's conference is expected to be dominated by calls by members for the party to say it will campaign to Remain in any future EU referendum.

Mr Corbyn has said Labour will negotiate its own Brexit deal if it forms the next government, and suggested this week that he would remain neutral in the resulting referendum.

But Ms Thornberry said: "It’s obviously important for us to go back to the membership at a time like this and ask them what’s the best way through.

"I will certainly be putting the case that we should have a referendum, we should give the people a decent choice on leaving the European Union, but that we should campaign to Remain.

"Not everyone agrees with me, so we need to thrash it out. The party has to decide collectively."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

WATCH: Jean-Claude Juncker offers Boris Johnson Brexit lifeline by hailing 'basis of a deal'

3 days 12 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker said he had a meeting with Boris Johnson t'hat was rather positive'

Jean-Claude Juncker has offered Boris Johnson a Brexit lifeline by saying the "basis of a deal" is in place.

The European Commission president spoke out after the Government produced proposals on how the Irish backstop could be replaced.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Juncker - who held talks with the Prime Minister earlier this week - said he did not have an "erotic relationship" with the backstop, which is aimed at guaranteeing no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Juncker said: “I had a meeting with Boris Johnson that was rather positive. I think we can have a deal.

“I am doing everything to have a deal because I don’t like the idea of a no-deal because I think this would have catastrophic consequences for at least one year.

"If the objectives are met - all of them - then we don't need the backstop."

On the UK government's proposals for replacing the backstop, Mr Juncker said: “It is the basis of a deal. It is the starting and the arrival point."

His comments came ahead of talks between Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, on Friday.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Johnson struck a cautiously optimistic tone, saying: "I don't want to exaggerate the progress that we are making, but we are making progress."

On fixing the backstop and ensuring no hard border returns to Northern Ireland, he said: "We think we can do that.

"We think we can solve that problem and I think we are making some progress."

The Prime Minister added: "Let's see where we get. It is vital whatever happens that we prepare for no-deal, and we will be ready for no-deal on 31 October.

“We have got to do both things at once.”

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster appeared to soften her Brexit stance by saying she is open to some all-Ireland solutions to the backstop.

Prerviously, the party has insisted it would not agree to anything which separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Ahead of a meeting with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, she said: “What we want to see happening is a recognition that we are on an island.

“We recognise the unique history and geography.”

Mr Varadkar said the gap between Britain and the EU remained wide, but said there was political will to do a deal.

Ahead of an expected meeting with Mr Johnson at UN General Assembly in New York next week, he added: “The rhetoric has tempered and the mood music is good.

"There is a lot of energy and a lot of positivity.

“The difficulty is that when it comes to the substance of the issue that needs to be resolved, the gaps are still very wide and we have no time to lose.”

Alain Tolhurst

Government minister repeatedly refuses to rule out fresh prorogation of Parliament

3 days 13 hours ago
Houses of Parliament
Parliament has been prorogued until 14 October.

A government minister has refused to rule out the possibility of Boris Johnson suspending Parliament again if he loses a landmark court case.

Victoria Atkins repeatedly said she would not be drawn on how the Government will respond if the Supreme Court judgement goes against it.

Eleven of the UK's most senior judges will give their ruling next week following a three-day legal battle in which the Prime Minister was accused of acting unlawfully by proroguing Parliament.

The Government has insisted it was a routine move ahead of a Queen's Speech on 14 October, but critics claimed it was aimed at preventing MPs from frustrating Brexit ahead of the 31 Octover deadline.

On Question Time on Thursday night, Ms Atkins, who is women's minister, was asked to respond to reports that the Government is considering a second prorogation if it loses the court case.

She said: "Please, I’m going to play with a very, very straight bat on this one and just say I can’t comment further until the judgement."

When asked by presenter Fiona Bruce whether she could rule it out, Ms Atkins replied: "I appreciate that, taking this step by step, these are such uncharted territories. You heard today the Government’s counsel Lord Keen ..."

After being asked a third time what the Government planned to do, the minister said: "First of all, you’ll appreciate I’m not at a level where I’m involved in any conversations of a constitutional notion, but I must defend ..."

Ms Bruce then asked Ms Atkins whether she supported another prorogation. She replied: "I’ve got to play with a straight bat."

Lawyers actings on behalf of anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller have said Parliament should return next week if the Government loses the case.

But documents submitted to the court on behalf of Boris Johnson said that would have "very serious practical consequences ... given that bringing forward the meeting of Parliament would require both a meeting of the Privy Council and a new Queen’s Speech at a date earlier than currently planned".

Kevin Schofield

EXCL Lib Dems are like 'the Taliban' over bid to scrap Brexit, says Emily Thornberry

3 days 21 hours ago
Emily Thornberry
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.

Emily Thornberry has compared the Lib Dems to the Taliban over the party's plan to scrap Brexit without another referendum.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said a second poll was "the only democratic way" to decide whether the UK should ultimately leave the European Union.

In an interview with The House magazine ahead of the Labour conference in Brighton, Ms Thornberry also said she hopes her party will take a pro-Remain stance in its general election manifesto.

The Islington South MP has led calls for Labour to back a second referendum - and repeatedly said she would vote Remain if it ever happened.

At the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth, delegates endorsed leader Jo Swinson's call for Brexit to be cancelled if the party wins a majority at the next election.

But Ms Thornberry said: "The Lib Dems have gotten kind of Taliban, haven’t they? They’ve said they’re just going to revoke, there’s not going to be another referendum.

"I don’t think it’s very democratic to seek to overturn a referendum without asking the people first. I really think the only democratic way to get through this and to break the logjam is to go back to the people and trust their good sense."

Labour's conference is set to be dominated by calls by members for the party to say it will back Remain in any future EU referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour negotiate its own Brexit deal if it forms the next government, and suggested that in the resulting referendum, he would remain neutral.

Ms Thornberry said: "It’s obviously important for us to go back to the membership at a time like this and ask them what’s the best way through.

"I will certainly be putting the case that we should have a referendum, we should give the people a decent choice on leaving the European Union, but that we should campaign to Remain. Not everyone agrees with me, so we need to thrash it out. The party has to decide collectively."

Kevin Schofield

War of words erupts as government insists it will not be rushed into revealing backstop alternative

4 days 7 hours ago
EU and UK flags
The Government has insisted it will not be rushed by the EU into revealing its hand.

Ministers have sparked a fresh war of words with the EU by insisting they will not be rushed into revealing their plans for replacing the Irish backstop.

A spokesperson for the Government said they would not be forced to show their hand by "an articificial deadline" put forward by Brussels.

The slapdown came after Antti Rinne, the prime minister of Finland, said the UK only had 11 days to bring forward its proposals for maintaining an open border in Ireland after Brexit or else the chances of agreeing a new deal were "over".

Speaking after holding talks with French president Emmanuel Macron, he said: "We need to know what the UK is proposing. The UK should make its possible own proposals very soon if they would like them to be discussed.

"We both agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing — if they exist. If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it’s over."

The UK government spokesperson said they had submitted "non-papers" to the EU setting out ideas for replacing the backstop.

However, sources also insisted that they did not necessarily represent the Government's actual position.

The spokesperson said: "We have been having detailed discussions with the Commission’s Taskforce 50 in recent weeks. We have now shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward.

"We will table formal written solutions when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline, and when the EU is clear that it will engage constructively on them as a replacement for the backstop."

The row comes after Mr Johnson was told to stop “pretending to negotiate” by Michel Barnier, the EU's top Brexit negotiator.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel said it was time for the Prime Minister to “stop speaking, but act” following talks earlier this week.

In response the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay claimed Mr Johnson had shown he was willing to be "creative and flexible", and suggested it was now the EU’s turn to shift its stance.

Speaking in Spain, the Cabinet minister said: "A rigid approach now at this point is no way to progress a deal and the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution."

He added: "We are committed to carving out a landing zone and we stand ready to share relevant texts. But it must be in the spirit of negotiation with flexibility and with a negotiating partner that itself is willing to compromise."

Alain Tolhurst

Sadiq Khan warns Jeremy Corbyn to back Remain in second referendum amid neutrality hint over Brexit

4 days 8 hours ago
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan pushed back at Mr Corbyn's neutral stance

Sadiq Khan has questioned Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to stay neutral in a second referendum saying Labour is “a remain party”.

The London mayor insisted they should campaign to stay in the EU, a day after the Labour leader said he wouldn’t pick a side if there was another vote on the UK’s membership.

Mr Corbyn wrote in the Guardian: “A Labour government would secure a sensible deal based on the terms we have long advocated, including a new customs union with the EU; a close single market relationship; and guarantees of workers’ rights and environmental protections. 

"We would then put that to a public vote alongside Remain. I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister."

But asked on Thursday whether he supported Mr Corbyn’s comments, Mr Khan told Sky News: “I’m quite clear the Labour party that I belong to, the Labour party I’m proud to be a Labour mayor of, we should be a Remain party.

“What we should be doing is giving the British public a final say, do you accept the terms of exit from the EU that’s been negotiated by the Government or do you want to remain in the European Union.

“I can’t think of anything more democratic that giving the British public a say, and I think we should if there’s a referendum, a public vote, campaign to remain.”

Mr Khan’s pushback comes a week after he called for the party to move its position on Brexit, and that he personally backed “removing” Article 50.

A string of frontbenchers including Emily Thornberry, Tom Watson and John McDonnell have already made clear that they would campaign to Remain if a fresh public vote was called.

Jeremy Corbyn has already committed Labour to holding a referendum on any Brexit deal agreed by the Commons, with the option of staying in the bloc on the ballot paper.

The party is expected to host heated debate over whether to adopt a pro-EU stance in a second referendum at its annual conference in Manchester this week.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show last week, Mr Khan added: “Whether it's a no-deal Brexit, whether it's the deal negotiated by Theresa May, whether it's an improvement that a Labour government may achieve - that is far less favourable than the option of staying in the EU. 

“And once we've got the public vote we should campaign to remain in the EU."

 

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Jacob Rees-Mogg admits reclining on Commons frontbench was 'a mistake'

4 days 12 hours ago
Jacob Rees-Mogg
The Commons Leader said his bid to get comfy had not been worth "distracting from the importance of what was going on".

Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted it was a "mistake" to recline on the frontbench of the House of Commons during a major clash over Brexit.

The Leader of the House of Commons sparked an angry backlash earlier this month as he lay back on the green benches while MPs debated the Government's plans to leave the European Union.

But, asked on Wednesday night if his behaviour was acceptable, Mr Rees-Mogg told an event organised by The Telegraph: "In hindsight I think not."

While the Cabinet minister said he had been "restoring an ancient tradition" of ministers resting their feet during debates, he added: "I do accept it was a mistake."

And Mr Rees-Mogg said his bid to get comfortable had not been  worth "distracting from the importance of what was going on".

The Commons Leader was accused by Green MP Caroline Lucas of being "contemptuous of this house and of the people" over the move, while Labour's Anna Turley branded him the "physical embodiment of arrogance, entitlement, disrespect and contempt for our parliament".

His comments on the row came as he heaped praise on Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and urged Tory voters who had abandoned the party to return to the fold.

He told the Telegraph event that Eurosceptics owed the former Ukip chief "a great debt", and said both Conservatives and Brexit Party voters "want the same thing".

"I respect Nigel Farage," Mr Rees-Mogg said. "He is a very distinguished political figure and important to what has happened in this country.”

But the Commons Leader, whose sister Annunziata is a Brexit Party MEP, said: "I want my sister to come back to the Conservative Party."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Sir John Major to tell Supreme Court that Boris Johnson has 'deprived Parliament of a voice' over Brexit

4 days 13 hours ago
John Major
The former Prime Minister will be represented by his barrister in court on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson suspended Parliament to deprive MPs of "a voice" over Brexit, Sir John Major is to tell the Supreme Court.

The Tory ex-leader will make his intervention on the third and final day of the landmark case.

In a written submission to the court, Sir John - who will be represented by his barrister - warned that if the judges did not rule against the Government, nothing could prevent a future Prime Minister from using prorogation "in any circumstances" - including to scrap the Army if they wished to.

And he argued that Number 10's claim that prorogation was necessary to prepare for a Queen's Speech on 14 October "makes no sense and cannot be the true explanation".

The Supreme Court is hearing appeals on two different rulings from courts in England and Scotland over the parliamentary shutdown.

The High Court in London has said the issue is not a matter for the courts - but the Court of Session in Edinburgh found that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful, following a case brought by 75 MPs.

Citing a previous legal case in which an estate agent was found to be in breach of the law over advice to clients, Sir John said: "It could hardly be suggested that the duties of the Prime Minister to the monarch are less than those of an estate agent to a homeowner. Accordingly, if the court is satisfied that the Prime Minister’s decision was materially influenced by something other than the stated justification, that decision must be unlawful."

And he challenged the Government's claim that the courts cannot rule on the issue of prorogation, arguing: "If that conclusion were correct, the consequence would be that there is nothing in law to prevent a Prime Minister from proroguing parliament in any circumstances or for any reason." 

Sir John said that would leave the door open to a Prime Minister “opposed to the idea of a standing army" proroguing Parliament and doing away with the armed forces completely.

The former Prime Minister added: "In any event, one of the central points of the present case — and the reason why these proceedings are necessary at all — is that the power of prorogation subverts the possibility of control by political means.

"Its effect is to deprive Parliament of a voice throughout the period of the prorogation. The inference was inescapable that the prime minister’s decision was motivated, or in any event substantially motivated, by his political interest in ensuring that there was no activity in Parliament during the period leading up to the EU Council summit on 17-18 October."

'FATHER OF LIES'

Sir John's intervention comes after Aidan O'Neill QC - representing the group of MPs and campaigners challenging the Prime Minister's decision - accused Mr Johnson of an "abuse of power" and branded him the "father of lies".

Referencing an infamous US supreme court case which ruled that black people could not be American citizens, he said: “I say to this court, don’t let this case be your Dred Scott moment.

“Instead stand up for the truth, stand up for reason, stand up for unity in diversity, stand up for Parliament, stand up for democracy by dismissing this government’s appeal and uphold a constitution governed by laws and not the passing whims of men.

“We’ve got here the mother of parliaments being shut down by the father of lies.”

But Sir James Eadie QC, acting for the Government, said prorogation was "a well-established constitutional function exercised by the executive".

And he said such decisions “are inherently and fundamentally political in nature”, arguing it was not for the courts to intervene in the decision.

The judges are expected to deliver their ruling next week.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Schools still face ‘unprecedented’ funding freeze despite ministers’ £4bn boost, warns IFS

4 days 14 hours ago
School pupils
The effective 13-year real-terms freeze will still represent an unprecedented period without growth, the IFS has said

A massive hike in school funding announced by the Government is not enough to turn around more than a decade of cuts, experts have warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the £4.3bn announced for schools by 2022 in the Chancellor’s spending review would “just about reverse” the cuts of 8% in spending per pupil since 2009.

The additional cash unveiled by Sajid Javid earlier this month represents a 7.4% increase in spending per pupil.

However they added that the lack of real growth amounted to an “unprecedented” 13-year real-terms freeze.

The group’s report found that while the £300m earmarked for further education in 2020-21 represented a 4% real-terms increase in spending per student, it remained 7% down on 2010.

It adds that fully reversing cuts to 16-18 year olds education, which includes sixth form colleges, since 2010–11 would cost £1.1bn on top of current plans.

Luke Sibieta, co-author of the report and a Research Fellow at the IFS, said: "The 2019 Spending Round provided genuinely substantial increases in school funding, enough to more or less offset all cuts since 2009.

"Of course, that still means no real growth in spending per pupil over a 13-year period.

"The extra £300 million for further education and sixth forms provides for a small rise in 2020, but at least a further £1.1 billion would be required to fully reverse cuts since 2010.

He added that the higher sector faced coming under further pressure from likely Government reforms following an independent review commissioned by Theresa May, when she was Prime Minister.

"The higher education sector faces yet more uncertainty given the potential for another radical shake-up proposed by the Augar Review or even the abolition of tuition fees proposed by Labour," he added.

Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, said: “The Tories have cut money for our schools while slashing taxes for the super-rich.

"After more than a decade of cuts, by 2022-23 our schools still won’t even get the same funding that they received 10 years ago, let alone the investment they need to give all our children a world-class education.

"As the IFS report makes clear, even after huge cuts to sixth form and further education colleges and adult education, yet more cuts are on the way for post-16 education.

Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, said: “The consequences of the decline in spending and real term freezes has meant fewer adult learners, squeezed budgets and lack of resource to provide the skills the country needs. 

“While the Chancellor’s recent spending announcement of £400 million for sixth forms and colleges was welcome and a further £100 million for teachers’ pensions a step in the right direction it must be followed by long-term investment to reverse ten years of continuous cuts and reform.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We recently announced a £14billion investment in schools - the biggest cash boost for a decade, which the independent IFS has said will restore schools’ funding to previous levels in real terms per pupil by 2022-23.

"Alongside this, we announced a significant real terms increase in funding for 16 to 19 year olds in 2020-21 to make sure we can continue to develop world class education to rival countries on the continent. We also provided £700 million extra for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

"Together this package will give all young people the same opportunities to succeed and access the education that’s right for them regardless of where they grow up."

Nicholas Mairs

EU chief negotiator tells Boris Johnson to stop 'pretending to negotiate' over Brexit deal

5 days 7 hours ago
Michel Barnier and Boris Johnson
Michel Barnier has sent a message to Boris Johnson

Michel Barnier has told Boris Johnson to stop “pretending to negotiate” over a new Brexit deal.

Speaking in the European Parliament, the EU’s chief negotiator said that Brussels prepared to work “day and night” to come up with a new agreement which could win the backing of MPs.

But he insisted that time was running out for a deal to be struck ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.

Downing Street sources have insisted that the EU has been shown the Government's alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop, which the Prime Minister has said must be scrapped for a deal to be done.

Mr Barnier told MEPs: “Almost three years after the UK referendum, I don’t think we should be spending time pretending to negotiate.

“I think we need to move forward with determination.”

He added: “If the UK leaves without a deal, I would recall that these questions don’t just disappear.

“They have been regulated in the withdrawal agreement, they have been covered – but they still remain. Whether we’re talking about the peace in Ireland, citizens’ rights, budgetary issues, they would all need to be settled.”

The UK government has insisted a “landing zone” for a deal is in sight, but will leave on 31 October regardless of whether an agreement is in place.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker - who held talks in Luxembourg with Mr Johnson earlier this week - also told MEPs: “I said to Prime Minister Johnson that I have no emotional attachment to the backstop, but I stand by the objectives it’s designed to achieve.

“I called on the PM to come forward with operational proposals in writing for practical steps which would allow us to achieve those objectives.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47