MPs who vote against Article 50 being triggered would be behaving like Donald Trump, Yvette Cooper has warned.
The senior Labour MP who serves as chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said on Thusday evening that attempting to “block” Brexit would move the UK towards being a country that “no longer respects democratic values”.
Cooper campaigned strongly for a ‘Remain’ vote in the EU referendum. But her constitunecy, like the country, voted to 'Leave'. The Supreme Court will rule on Tuesday on whether Theresa May needs to ask parliament to approve the start of the Brexit process.
“It was a referendum that was fought in good faith and nobody said at any time ‘you know what, I am not going to respect the result afterwards’,” Cooper told an audience at Queen Mary University’s Mile End Institute.
“That’s the kind of thing Donald Trump says - and did say it before the presidential election - and we were all appalled and horrified that he was saying that about the outcome a vote.”
The president-elect of the United States, who takes power today, caused uproar during the second debate with Hillary Clinton by suggesting he would refuse to accept the result of the election if he lost.
On Thursday, Jeremy Corbyn said he would ask his MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the formal mechanism of leaving the EU - if May has to ask parliament.
However several members of the Labour leader’s frontbench have suggested they will defy him - including shadow business secretary and ally Clive Lewis. Catherine West, a shadow Foreign Office minister, and shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner have said they will vote against Article 50.
Veteran Conservative Ken Clarke has also said he will not vote for Brexit.
Cooper’s constituency, Pontefract and Castleford, voted heavily to leave the EU in June.
She said last night: “People who elected me in 2015 who then voted to leave when the referendum happened .... I didn’t go out to say to them ‘I am going to ignore you’.
“I campaigned in the referendum to persuade them to ‘Remain’ and that’s not the decision they took.
“I don’t think it’s right to block Article 50. I do think it’s right to argue strongly what kind of Brexit we should have.”
Cooper said she was worried about polls that showed some people in Western countries “no longer supporting democracy” and that democratic institutions had to be defended. “There is declining support for democratic values,” she warned.
“I don’t see how I could go out there and say it’s so important to stand up for democratic values and say ‘but there is this democratic vote we just had that I never said I wasn’t going to respect and I am not going to respect it now,” she said.
Cooper said while she would vote for Article 50, she would fight in parliament against a “right-wing Brexit” that gutted employment rights.
During the event in east London, the former shadow home secretary and 2015 Labour leadership candidate said Labour’s poll rating was in a “very bad place”. Asked if she would be able to tell voters they should elect Corbyn as prime minister at the next election, she said: “I hope so”.
Corbyn said yesterday the result of the referendum was “very clear” in favour of Brexit. “I have made it very clear that the Labour Party accepts and respects the decision of the British people. We will not block Article 50,” he said.
This caused Lib Dem leader Tim Farron to accuse Corbyn of “lamely giving up” on the EU and said “future generations are not going to forgive” Labour for failing to oppose Brexit.