Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick 'Not Far Away' From Backing PM's Brexit Deal

“Doing nothing could be just as bad," says ex-minister, whose London constituency voted 67% for remain.
<strong>Labour Jim Fitzpatrick in the Commons on Friday</strong>
Labour Jim Fitzpatrick in the Commons on Friday

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has said he is “not far away” from voting for Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday.

The former minister, whose Poplar and Limehouse constituents voted 67% for remain, said the “danger of no deal is still there” and the PM’s plan was “the only real alternative on the table”.

Fitzpatrick used a speech in the Commons on Friday to warn “time is running out” as he branded a so-called “people’s vote” on the deal “code for reversing original decision”.

May’s deal is expected to be defeated in parliament on Tuesday January 15, but the PM holds out hope she could win over some Labour MPs after key concessions on environmental protections and workers’ rights.

“Some colleagues on my side have said nothing has changed since the government pulled the vote in December and I disagree,” said Fitzpatrick, as MPs continued their lengthy debate on May’s withdrawal agreement on Friday.

The London MP expressed doubts about Labour’s policy of demanding a general election, saying it would mean delaying Article 50 and “perhaps” another referendum.

“The amount of time, energy and money that we have already spent on Brexit could be duplicated,” he said.

He added: “Labour’s six tests [for Brexit] were useful as a challenge but like Gordon Brown’s five tests for the Euro were never meant to be met in my view.”

He also said furious rows between Tory MPs and Speaker John Bercow, as well as remainer MPs such as Anna Soubry being subjected to abuse outside parliament demonstrated “just how toxic this issue is and it has to end”.

He said: “We need to make a decision. We need to move the country on and move forward.”

He also dismissed many “dire forecasts” for the economy post-Brexit, adding: “Doing nothing could be just as bad.”

The Poplar and Limehouse MP said: “I’m talking myself into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal next Tuesday against no deal and against further delay.

“I’m not quite there yet but I’m not far away.

“It seems the House isn’t yet there at all but at some point we need to recognise the danger of no deal is still there and the only real alternative on the table is the Prime Minister’s deal.”

Fellow Labour MP Mike Gapes later claimed his party was in a “bizarre position” over Brexit, noting: “According to the brief from the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) this week we’re going for a sensible Brexit - whatever that is.

“The reality is all over the country we know there is no such thing as a jobs-first Brexit, it is entirely about mitigating the damage.”

Gapes said he did not believe any government would have negotiated “anything very different” to what Theresa May has negotiated with the EU, adding: “There’s no socialist Brexit, there’s no jobs-first Brexit, there’s no better Brexit.”

He warned May’s deal offered a “blindfold Brexit” and he expected it to be rejected, adding he wants Article 50 revoked.