POLITICS
16/02/2018 11:20 GMT | Updated 16/02/2018 13:41 GMT

Labour Brexit Policy: Jeremy Corbyn Under Pressure As Members Write 17,000 Emails

'We can't keep brushing this under the carpet,' says Labour MP.

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Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure from party members

Jeremy Corbyn is under increasing pressure to consult party members on Brexit policy after 17,000 emails from Labour’s grassroots over the last five days. 

It comes after pro-EU MPs said National Executive Committee, the party’s ruling body, was neglecting discussions on exiting the bloc.  

Since the General Election, Labour has set up eight policy commissions but none of these focus exclusively on Brexit. 

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has outlined that the party would “retain the benefits” of the single market and customs union and would have “all options on the table”. Free movement would officially end, Starmer has conceded, but “easy movement” could replace it, he said. 

Corbyn has also underlined that it is not Labour’s position to have a second referendum. 

Many members, the majority of which are pro-EU, feel the party’s positions are too vague, however. 

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Starmer and Corbyn in the House of Commons 

The party’s National Policy Forum, made up of shadow cabinet members, trade union bosses and prominent party figures, will consider their thousands of emails at a summit in Leeds this weekend. 

One of the eight commissions, the international policy commission, covers Brexit and takes contributions from Starmer, the party has said, but it is understood the group is not accepting submissions on Brexit.

MP Heidi Alexander, Co-Chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, said Corbyn must enact a “step change” in how the party tackles Brexit.

She said: “We can’t keep brushing this under the carpet. The fact that more than 17,000 people have been in touch with the party to share their views on Brexit in the last five days alone speaks volumes. 

“Without this campaign, it is genuinely not clear how Labour members supporters and the public are meant to contribute to the Party’s policymaking on the biggest issue we face as a country.

“Local Labour branches all over the country have been debating this issue for a year and a half, and yet when it came to party conference in September the motions they had passed and the views they expressed were effectively junked.

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Heidi Alexander said members views are being "effectively junked" by the Labour leadership

“This is frankly astonishing, and it simply isn’t good enough. We urgently need to see the creation of a Brexit policy commission, but we also need to see a step-change in the way the party deals with Brexit, and the way it engages with the membership on this most important of issues.”  

Alison McGovern, Co-Chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market, said the party needed an “open conversation”, adding: “This shambles of a Government have proved they’re not up to the task of dealing with Brexit. They have mismanaged this process from start to finish and at every stage they’ve put the wishes of extreme Brexit ideologues like Jacob Rees-Mogg above the well-being of our country.  

“The Labour Party should show the country that there’s a different path we can take. But in order to do so, we have to have an open conversation about the best way forward. We can’t just bury our heads in the sand. Now is the time for the Labour Party to reject this extreme Tory Brexit and instead chart a progressive path forward.”

Francis Grove-White, Deputy Director of the pro-single market campaign Open Britain, meanwhile, added: “The fact that in the year in which our future relationship with the EU is being negotiated, the Labour Party has eight policy commissions but not one focuses on Brexit, is frankly ridiculous. 

“It is time for all those in Parliament who care about preventing a hard and destructive Brexit to stand up and be counted. We hope this campaign will help persuade the Labour Party to treat these issues with the attention and importance they deserve.”